Feline Blood Bank Saves Lives

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Cats may need blood transfusions for a variety of reasons, such as trauma, surgery, cancer or infectious diseases. There are currently several animal blood banks in the United States, but due to the unique nature of cats, feline blood products are much harder to come by than their canine counterparts.

In order to be a blood donor, a cat needs to meet several criteria: they must be indoor only, between 1 and 8 years of age, weigh at least 10 pounds, not be on any medication and pass a number of different blood tests, including FeLV/FIV and a complete blood count and chemistry. Unlike dogs, cats must receive type-specific blood, so they must be blood typed. If a cat receives the wrong blood type, it can be life-threatening.

While many dogs can donate blood without being sedated, cats require sedation or anesthesia to donate blood, which makes most cat guardians reluctant to offer their cats up as volunteer donor cats. Some veterinary hospitals will have a donor cat on the premises to provide blood when needed.

Nine Lives Blood Services, the first feline-only veterinary blood bank in the United States, located in Michigan, found an innovative solution for this dilemma. They use screened donor cats from local shelters. The cats are cared for by Nine Lives Blood Services until they find a permanent home.  As a result, this service is not just saving the lives of the cats who will receive these life saving blood products, but also the lives of shelter cats.

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Alice Parr, LVT, one of the technicians at Nine Lives Feline Blood Bank, shared one of their success stories with me. Maggie, a nine-year-old Persian, had a life threatening anemia, most likely due to an autoimmune problem. The emergency clinic in Maryland, where she was being treated, could not locate any type B blood, which is what Maggie needed. Maggie’s guardians went online, and found Nine Lives Feline Blood Services.

They called the blood bank about 7am. Nine Lives Blood Services had the correct blood, obtained from one of their donor cats, on a plane to Washington, DC, by 11am. Maggie’s guardians had to battle D.C. rush hour traffic to pick the blood up at the airport, but it got to Maggie in time. Maggie is now on steroids to suppress her overactive immune system, and she is doing well.

Thanks to two dedicated cat guardians, the lifesaving services of Nine Live Feline Blood Services and their donor cats, and a skilled veterinary team in the Maryland clinic where Maggie was being treated, Maggie only used up one of her nine lives.

Visit the Nine Lives Blood Services website for more information.

Has your cat received a transfusion? Would you consider a transfusion if your cat needed one?

Photos of donor cats by Nine Lives Blood Services, used with permission.

10 Comments on Feline Blood Bank Saves Lives

  1. Christina
    November 6, 2013 at 11:31 am (7 years ago)

    Last year my 13 year old cat who was dying of cancer needed a blood transfusion and received it from one of the vet tech’s cats. It gave me another few weeks to say goodbye, and I haven’t stopped thinking about that donor cat. I am so grateful for the extra time I had with my boy! If there’s a kitty blood bank here in South Florida, I would take my current cats to donate and give someone else’s kitty a little more time!

    Reply
  2. Safepethaven
    November 6, 2013 at 10:14 am (7 years ago)

    About 17 years ago my Teddy [RIP] had to receive two transfusions post-surgery needed for severe megacolon. The lifesaving blood was donated by one of the clinic kitties at my DVM’s office. Izuma might have had a reputation as a “difficult” cat, but she certainly had peppy blood! It gave Teddy an extra eleven years he wouldn’t have had otherwise.

    Reply
  3. Kathy
    November 6, 2013 at 10:09 am (7 years ago)

    I never knew about this kind of service. I may have to look into this to help out. I have two cats who should be great for giving donations. How often can you donate and is there a risk for my kitties? They both have been put under before to be fixed with no issues but is it safe to put them under over and over again?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      November 6, 2013 at 11:01 am (7 years ago)

      There’s always some risk with anesthesia, Kathy. It’s best to discuss this with your veterinarian.

      Reply
  4. karen
    October 21, 2013 at 12:20 pm (7 years ago)

    Yes unfortunately I have had personal experience with this. My kitty Madison had hemolytic anemia and required blood tranfusions 3 separate times. Her sister donated once and my vets cat actually donated twice. My Maddy lived 8 addtl months of quality iife. I think it is a wonderful service and would consider it withouth hesitation again.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      October 21, 2013 at 4:29 pm (7 years ago)

      I’m glad transfusions helped extend the life of your kitty, Karen.

      Reply
  5. Vickster
    October 21, 2013 at 10:06 am (7 years ago)

    Ingrid, thanks for the information about this..and in my home state of Michigan! The only other cat blood bank I’ve known about was at Angell Animal Medical Center near Boston MA. I will add their link to my blog, and find out about future fund-raisers.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      October 21, 2013 at 4:29 pm (7 years ago)

      Thanks for spreading the word about Nine Lives Blood Bank, Vickster.

      Reply
  6. Sue Brandes
    October 21, 2013 at 9:46 am (7 years ago)

    I didn’t even realize they had this for cats. So far have not ever had to have anything like this for my kitties. Wonderful they have this out there.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      October 21, 2013 at 4:28 pm (7 years ago)

      I hope you’ll never need this for your cats, Sue!

      Reply

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