Last week I was presented with a chunky black and white cat called Robert. Robert’s history is typical of many cats in the town.

Robert turned up on the doorstep of a family in Lockwood about 12 months ago. Robert was an un-neutered male with big chunky jowls and it was very clear to everyone he met that he was living rough. His hair coat was dirty and matted and his ears and nose bore the scars of numerous territorial disputes. His lean appearance suggested that the bins in the area had been his unreliable source of food.

Despite his unkempt appearance Robert, like many un-neutered tom cats was a big softy and the family started feeding him. Robert’s confidence grew and, although he never really came to socialise with the family’s indoor cats, he became a regular sight in the garden and by the food dish on the patio.

After nearly a year, it became apparent that Robert had realized that he had landed lucky and was not going to move on so his new owners brought him to see me to be neutered.

Because of their lifestyle, un-neutered tom cats can be prone to contracting Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) from bites and scratches. Both these diseases can easily be overlooked as cats can contract the infections but remain apparently fit and healthy for months or even years. During this time they are contagious and can pass the infection on to other cats. Eventually, cats become ill because of the infection and need to be euthanased.

I suggested that we run a blood test to check for the presence of FeLV or FIV prior to neutering. The test can be done at the surgery and results obtained within 15 minutes.

Sadly Robert’s test results showed that he was positive for FIV and because he was an infection risk to other cats in the neighbourhood, it was decided that he should be euthanased to prevent spread to the wider cat population.

Feral cats should be blood tested and neutered to try to prevent the spread of these unpleasant diseases. There are a number of charities who may be able to assist with the neutering of feral cats. Contact Donaldson’s Vets for more details.