Source: ABC News (Extract)
Posted: May 31, 2023

If cats have nine lives, Hugo the purebred ragdoll has helped add a tenth to a fellow feline’s; all by way of a blood donation.

His owner, Anne Pleash, had no idea cats could give blood until she saw a notice at the veterinary practice while Hugo was in for a check-up. 

The proud pet-mum of two cats and a dog says she wanted to pay it forward for other pet owners.  

“I thought, ‘What a great thing to do’ and I popped him on the register,” she said.

“I love my animals … I don’t have children so they’re my fur babies and if I ever needed blood, I would hope that there would be a donation for my little cat and my little dog.”

Like humans, cats have four different blood types, and they need to be compatible for a successful blood transfusion.

During Hugo’s check-up, the vet staff took a sample to determine his blood type before placing him on the register.

It wasn’t long before he was called upon to lend a paw in a time of need.

“I got a call asking, ‘How soon can you get him here? We’ve got a cat that’s quite sick and needs a donation’,” Ms Pleash said.

More cat blood donations needed

Far north Queensland vet Graham Lauridsen said there was a general shortage of cat blood and is calling on more owners to register their furry family members as donors.

He said having access to blood supplies during an emergency is the difference between life and death.

“There have been a couple of instances in the past few years where it’s been really touch-and-go, where we’ve said to the client, ‘Your animal needs a blood transfusion. We can try to source one if we can’,” he said.

Dr Lauridsen said there were far fewer cat blood donors than dog donors, forcing him to get creative to save one feline’s life when compatible cat blood wasn’t readily available.

“That’s something I’ve resorted to only once in my career, but it worked.”

Cat criteria for eligibility

While it is relatively straightforward to register a cat to become a blood donor, there are several criteria that need to be met.

Eligible cats need to be between 18 months and seven years of age, weigh more than 4 kilograms and be fully up to date with vaccinations.

Dr Lauridsen said some vet practices also insisted on taking blood from “inside cats” only due to other risk factors.

“There’s a few diseases out there that will spread from cat-to-cat and obviously outside cats are more likely to come across each other,” he said.

“The main one is FIV, feline immunodeficiency virus, think of human AIDS and the cat version is exactly like that.

“It is potentially transferable from a sick cat to a healthy cat via a blood transfusion.

“There are a few other diseases out there, weird and wonderful ones, but that’s the main one.”

Donor for life

Ms Pleash said having already saved the life of at least one fellow feline, she’ll make sure Hugo continues to be a regular blood donor.

“He can give blood up until seven years old, he’s only two in July, so he’s got five more years of giving blood if it’s needed,” she said.