FeLV-positive Adoption Program Profile Series: Tree House Humane Society

Interview! Danielle Bays, Director of Cat Protection and Policy, HSUS
March 30, 2019
Interview! Nikki Martinez, Trapper, Foster Mom, and Feline Welfare Activist
April 6, 2019

Here’s the next installment in our ongoing series on Feline Leukemia (FeLV) adoption programs around the country. The series shares different groups’ answers to our questions about their FeLV+ adoption programs. 

We hope you enjoy and are inspired by this series, and if you have a suggestion for an organization we should consider profiling, please shoot me an email.

For this profile, we’re talking with Danielle Case, Shelter Manager at Tree House Humane Society in Chicago.

Trisha came from a shelter that wasn’t able to accommodate FeLV+ cats . She is one of our most recent adoptions, just finding her home in January! It didn’t take her long to adjust, as you can see! This photo was taken just a few days after adoption!

Why and when did you start a Felv adoption program?

In 2016 we opened our first FeLV+ adoption colony in our previous location in the Uptown neighborhood in Chicago. After moving to our new building in the Rogers Park neighborhood, we have doubled our capacity for FeLV+ cats, and placed them in our (soon to open) Tree House Cat Cafe where they will be featured year round.

While we do not have an exhaustive list of FeLV+ accepting shelters across the nation, a generic search turns up approximately 50 of them. At Tree House Humane Society, we have the information and resources to help, so we did!

How many cats do you adopt out annually?

Since our initial FeLV+ admission in 2016 we have adopted out 27 positive cats (on average 14 cats per year) and are always working on ways to do more! We look forward to rolling out new programs in 2019 that we predict will increase our capacity for these cats. In addition, the approaching grand opening of our Tree House Cat Cafe will give us the opportunity to educate our community on feline leukemia, and meet and bond with cats that have tested positive for the virus.

Lorelai (pictured above) was adopted into her new home in April of 2018. She is clearly happy and healthy in her new home! Lorelai came to us from another shelter that wasn’t able to accommodate FeLV+ cats.

We have found that adopting out FeLV+ cats is actually quite similar to adopting out any cat that might need some type of special attention. While there are things to consider when bringing a FeLV+ cat into your home, education and preparation makes a world of difference. Once adopters learn about the virus and what care of a FeLV+ positive cat looks like, they are often much more open to accepting one of these sweet cats into their home. Our cats do all the work of endearing our adopters to them!

Do you provide or cover vet care for the cats after adoption?

Our adoption counselors provide very thorough shelter-to-home transition counseling, including guidance on veterinary care post-adoption. In addition, we offer a 14-day support period post-adoption when new adopters can utilize our clinic for assistance with medical issues.

What are the benefits to running such a program?

This type of program is essential to the well-being of cats that have tested positive and have limited options for placement. It is a central part of our mission and values that no cat suffers and every cat thrives. This program is an extension of those core values. We are happy to have the opportunity to serve a population of under-served animals that deserve a chance to find a home. We also hope to empower and assist any other shelter interested in opening their space to FeLV+ cats.

Susie was found outside and picked up by a concerned member of the community. When she arrived here, she tested positive for feline leukemia. She found her home in December, just in time for the holidays! She is adjusting very well to her new home with lots of love!

What are the challenges?

Like any cat that requires special attention, [FeLV-positive cats] tend to have a longer stay at our shelter. In an effort to shorten every cat’s time here at Tree House, we have made tremendous improvements to our adoption process, turning our four-page application into an open and welcoming conversation with one of our knowledgeable and friendly adoption counselors. We welcome all adopters that wish to bring a cat into their home and family, and adoption counselors are eager to help you do so! We firmly believe that increasing ease during the adoption process for our adopters is an important aspect of helping our cats find homes—whether they are feline leukemia positive or not.

How can people contact your organization for more information?

We welcome visitors Thursday – Sunday from 12–6 pm and Monday–Wednesday by appointment. We are located at 7225 N Western Ave. [in Chicago]. Our parking lot is open to all visitors. You can reach us by phone at 773-262-4000 or e-mail at info@treehouseanimals.org. We look forward to meeting you and helping you find your new feline friend!

If you work in a shelter or rescue and are interested in starting your own feline leukemia adoption program, please contact our Shelter Manager at 773-262-4000 ext. 111 or dcase@treehouseanimals.org. We will also be presenting on this topic at the HSUS Expo on April 17, 2019. Look for our session “Feline retrovirus: Is your shelter retro-ready?” We are happy to share to help you get started!