Meet Sir Henry Snugglebutt, retired blood donor cat.
Sir Henry Snugglebutt is my best friend's cat. Lynn adopted Sir Henry Snugglebutt in 2015. Henry was 6 yrs old at the time and was getting ready to retire. He is now 12 years old and spoiled rotten. Henry had been a blood donor cat at the Atlantic Veterinary College based in Prince Edward Island, Canada since he was 2.5 years old. He helped save the life of many other cats.
As long as I have known Lynn, she has always had a cat and she was looking to adopt. Lynn learned of the blood donor program and that some of the cats were retiring. That meant they needed a forever home. Turned out that Lynn and Henry had a lot in common. Lynn works in the Blood Bank Lab at one of the PEI hospitals where they provide blood for people needing a transfusion. Lynn and Henry were a purrfect match!
The Atlantic Veterinary College adopts cats from the local shelter for this program. The AVC requires that the cats be healthy, friendly, and have a calm temperament.
When the new blood donor cats arrive, they are quarantined for 8 weeks. During that time, blood tests are run for each life-saving cat to ensure they are healthy and have negative results for feline diseases. Therefore, the cats are able to provide blood transfusions with suitable hemoglobin levels to injured or sick cats. Without the donated blood, cat patients would have died.
Each cat's blood test also determines which Blood Group they are in. Sir Henry and his 2 cat pals were Blood Group A. A cat requiring a blood transfusion must be a match to that Blood Group. Cats have naturally occurring alloantibodies to red cell antigens and severe reactions can occur with type-mismatched transfusions. Group A is the most common blood type in cats (approximately 73% of cats are A). Other blood types are B and AB.
With a light sedation, blood was drawn from Sir Henry's jugular when an immediate transfusion was needed, but never more often than every 28 days. This allowed time in between blood draws for Sir Henry's body to replenish that volume. The amount drawn is about 20% of their blood volume.
Care and Enrichment
The blood donor cats were the responsibility of dedicated Vet Technicians while in their care. Feeding them, cleaning up after them, and most importantly, providing attention and playtime. The cats were given plenty of time to roam around the room, look out windows, enjoy a sun puddle, and to interact with staff. The cats participate in the program for 3 years.
Time to Retire!
When it was time for Sir Henry to retire, Lynn was interviewed to ensure it was a good match. Once Lynn was approved, she had to wait 3 months while the next group of blood donating cats went through their quarantine. Then, Sir Henry was able to go to his forever home!
To help Sir Henry with his transition into a new environment, Lynn did a few things to help him feel at home. She bought him a scratching post exactly like the one at the vet college so it would be familiar; before he came home she brought toys over and a hair brush to be in the cats' room to get all their smells on it. To this day his most favorite ball is one that came from their room. She also brushed all 3 cats, and then brought some of the combined fur home to place in Sir Henry's new cat bed.
"Henry walked out of the pet carrier when we arrived home, walked to the food bowl and had a snack, went and laid on both beds, both sofas, and checked out his toys and litter box all within the first 20 minutes or so, as if he lived here his whole life. He almost immediately relaxed. I noticed it around the food right away that he was used to having to wolf down his food otherwise the other boys would get it. He enjoyed being able to pick at his kibbles at will with no pressure. He crawled up on top of me on the couch and had a cuddle and snooze right away. It was a joy to see how happy and at ease he was right away."
Sir Henry is a very happy boy, and loves his Mom very much. He enjoys watching birds, having the occasional zoomies, and also watching videos on the laptop. He always makes an appearance when Lynn and I FaceTime with each other. He even watches my cats if he can see them. Retirement is looking good on you, Sir Henry Snugglebutt!
all photos courtesy of Sir Henry's Mom
Want to Learn More?
By the way, dogs can donate blood, too. If you are interested in volunteering your cat or dog to be a blood donor, be sure to do plenty of research to understand all that is involved. Contact your own Veterinarian as well.
For more information:
Interested in Volunteering Your Cat to Donate Blood? Click on the following link to learn more.
2021 ISFM Guidelines
ISFM Consensus Guidelines on the Collection and Administration of Blood and Blood Products in Cats
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