1996 - 22 Sep. 2010
Juma began visiting my stray feeder sometime early in 1999. He adopted a box in the garage as his special sleeping place, and gradually became a constant presence. He was a tomcat, and in April I took him to the vet for an initial exam, intending at least to get him neutered and vaccinated, and possibly to take him in.
Unfortunately, Juma tested positive for FIV, the virus which causes the feline version of AIDS. This left me with a difficult decision; if I continued to let him roam loose in the neighborhood, he would be likely to spread it to other cats and the stress of living outdoors might well cause his health to decline more rapidly. Taking him into my house posed a certain risk to my own cats. Finding him another home, where he would be kept indoors and away from other cats (unless they were also FIV positive) would have been ideal, but such homes are difficult to find and my attempts in that direction were unsuccessful. The only other choice was to have him euthanised, and I was reluctant to do that to a cat who was currently healthy and enjoying life.
Ultimately, I decided to risk adopting him. FIV is spread primarily by bite wounds, so to minimize the opportunities for those, Juma spent his first months in the house under partial quarantine. He stayed in my sewing room by himself when I wasn't home, but was allowed out when I was there to supervise. He couldn't be allowed to roughhouse with the other cats, for fear he might bite too vigorously. Fortunately, he was a gentle and easygoing cat and wasn't inclined to fighting or aggressive play, though he loved to romp around the house and play with toys. Gradually I began allowing him out of his quarantine, and eventually he had full run of the house. Juma loved being a housecat and was very affectionate and fond of lap-sitting.
In an interesting turn of events, it seems quite likely that Scaramouche, an orphan feral kitten I adopted during the summer of '99, is Juma's son, conceived shortly before I took Juma into the house. Scaramouche's mother was a regular at my stray feeder, so there would have been ample opportunity for the parents to meet, and the resemblence between Juma and Scaramouche was striking. Not only were they both solid black (the mother was a grey tabby), but their facial features were very much alike, including a distinctive shape to the eyes. No way to be certain, of course, but it seems quite probable that I had a father-son pair. The two of them got along well, too.
Juma remained fairly healthy for most of his life. While the FIV shortened his life expectancy, it's an unpredictable disease and in some cats the effects are relatively mild, while others develop fatal disorders in a short time. Juma was in the more fortunate category, and lived out a normal lifespan of about 14 years. In his later months he developed kidney failure, common in cats of his age, but with supportive care he continued to do well until he experienced a sudden decline in September, 2010. Tests showed that he had severe anemia due to immune mediated hemolytic anemia, an autoimmune disease, and his kidneys had almost completely shut down. His condition was worsening despite treatment, and when it was evident that there was no realistic chance of getting him stabilized again, I had him put to sleep.
I miss having Juma around. He was always a joyous, enthusiastic cat, showing more sheer joie de vivre than any other adult cat I have known. He had a long and happy life, though, and certainly beat the odds for a stray tomcat with FIV.