This sweet shelter favorite is packing his bags after more than 2,000 days, thanks to his new parents who know he's more than just his feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) diagnosis.

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FIV Tabby cat
Credit: Courtesy of Helen O. Krause Animal Foundation Inc.

After spending more than 2,000 days in a shelter, Tyson has finally found his forever home.

The adorable ginger tabby cat with a matching white bib and white mittens was in his sixth year of residency at The Helen O. Krause Animal Foundation Inc. animal shelter in Dillsburg, Pa., when his Petfinder.com post captured the hearts of a local couple, putting an end to his long-term stay. 

Tyson, who was first picked up as a stray when he was 2 years old, tested positive for feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) upon his arrival at the shelter. FIV is a virus that damages a cat's immune system and weakens it, making the cat more susceptible to other infections and diseases. Oftentimes, the virus can make cats who test positive seem less appealing to potential adopters, according to Alexandra Holden, the shelter's manager. 

"Cats with FIV do have a harder time finding home," Holden says. "There is a lot of stigma around the disease. There is an assumption that FIV cats will not live as long, or [they] lead to high vet expenses." 

People may assume, but it's important to note that a positive FIV test alone does not hinder a cat from living a full, happy life. Though each FIV cat is different, shelters know the personalities and medical history of their FIV cats and are able to tell potential adopters what to expect when it comes to each cat's health and life expectancy, Holden says.

In fact, the AAFP Retrovirus Guidelines state: "Studies demonstrate that retrovirus infected cats, especially FIV-infected cats, may experience normal longevity with appropriate husbandry and disease management." 

This is exactly the case for 8-year-old Tyson, whose sweet disposition made him a shelter favorite from the moment he first arrived. "These animals become big parts of our daily routines," Holden says. "They're family to us, so it's bittersweet when one gets adopted. It fills us all with joy to see them get the loving home they deserve, but we can't help but miss them, too." 

One shelter's loss was a lucky couple's gain. Janelle and Zach James of Fawn Grove, Pa., weren't actively looking to adopt a cat, but when Janelle decided to skim Petfinder.com on a whim and came across Tyson's picture and profile, the couple immediately fell in love with the ginger tabby—and we can't blame them! 

Though shelter managers warned the couple that the tabby would need time to adjust to his new home following his six-year shelter occupancy, Tyson had other plans. According to an interview with York Daily Record, James says the sweet cat showed no signs of fear once he left the shelter and could not stop purring and rubbing against the couple from the second they all arrived home. Despite the change in scenery, it seems Tyson knew he was exactly where he was supposed to be.

The Jameses know that as owners of an FIV cat they need to be proactive with taking Tyson to the veterinarian, and they say they're dedicated to maintaining his asymptomatic status by planning checkups twice a year. After his long stay in the shelter, we are so happy to see Tyson has finally found a loving family who was willing to see past his FIV.

"Adopters should never be quick to dismiss a cat due to them being FIV positive," Holden says. "Not every cat is a good fit for every home, so when you find a cat that really connects to you and your family, that is a special bond."