Ann Arbor, MI (June 30, 2016) – For cats’ sakes, the Humane Society of Huron Valley (HSHV) is getting creative.

Hayes the FeLV positive catIn addition to the Tiny Lions cat café, now the administrative office at the HSHV shelter has been turned into a sanctuary for terminally ill cats.

Having transferred in dozens of cats from struggling local shelters, HSHV recently experienced an uptick in the number of cats with Feline Leukemia Virus or “FeLV.” Often referred to as “the friendly disease,” FeLV is one of the most common infectious diseases in cats, weakening their immune system and often causing cancer. At present, FeLV is incurable. HSHV tests all incoming cats for FeLV, though many shelters do not.

“Unfortunately, the majority of animal shelters euthanize cats with FeLV, as they either do not understand the virus, do not have the space to house FeLV positive cats separately or cannot find adopters willing to give these cats a home. But our community is different. We live among supportive, educated people who want us to think outside of the box to save animals,” says Tanya Hilgendorf, HSHV’s president and CEO.

“Outside of the box” for HSHV is now inside the twenty cubicles of the HSHV office. The cats are kept separately from other cats in the shelter, with staff and visitors following protocols for preventing transmission. Fortunately, the virus doesn’t survive long outside a cat’s body, which helps keep it contained.

“Our administrative area has always provided back-up housing for cats.  It’s helped save lives, and our administrative staff love it. Being creative and everyone being ‘all in’ makes us who we are.  Becoming the home—temporarily or permanently—for FeLV cats was an easy leap for us,” says Matthew Schaecher, HSHV’s COO.

Jessa the FeLV positive cat“HSHV has for years used a fantastic organization called Leuk’s Landing to provide sanctuary to our FeLV positive cats, and will continue to do so,” notes Schaecher, “but, obviously, they have limited space and the demand is great.  With our uptick in population, we had to push ourselves to create more internal solutions.  These are really happy cats.  Euthanasia was not an option.”

Hilgendorf notes that some of the cats are available for adoption if it’s the right fit. Adopters of an FeLV positive cat cannot have non-FeLV positive cats, though they can have other animals (The disease is only spread only among cats—not among people, dogs, rabbits or any other species). Also, adopters should be prepared for some additional veterinary care; similar to someone with a weakened immune system, FeLV cats may need a checkup every 6 months (vs. annually for healthy cats). Though many die by the age of two, some live 10 to 15 years, depending on many factors including when the cat contracted the virus.

“These guys are the sweetest, friendliest cats,” says Cathryn O’Connell, administrative support specialist at HSHV. “We’re having fun with them. We don’t know how long they’ll live, but we can help them live a good life as long as they’re here. And really, more than anything, what they need is love.”

Persons or businesses interested in adopting a cat can contact an adoptions specialist at HSHV by calling 734-662-5585 or by emailing


About The Humane Society of Huron Valley:

The Humane Society of Huron Valley, located in Ann Arbor, is an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and relies solely on the generosity of our supporters to provide critical community programs and services. HSHV is an award-winning organization, recognized for our best practices and highest animal “save-rate” among all similar shelters in Michigan. Charity Navigator, the nation’s top charity evaluator, awarded HSHV a 4-star ranking, the highest possible. The mission of HSHV is to promote the loving, responsible care of all animals in our community. HSHV is not affiliated with any other humane organization and does not receive funding from the United Way. More information can be found on HSHV’s website ( and on our annual report (