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Jac Hapka’s Story

Any discussion of Feline AIDS: A Pet Owner’s Guide would be incomplete without also sharing the story of my family’s journey into the world of FIV, as well as the story of our now world-famous cat, Jac.

Jac came into my life during my childhood. He was part of a litter my family adopted – or more accurately, they adopted us when their mother gave birth in our garage. I loved each of those kittens, but there was something special about Jac. He had an aura of greatness about him, and I knew early on that he would change my life.

Jac was remarkably sociable and charismatic. He often went out of his way to greet visitors to our home, and he was known for leaping into the lap of anyone who dared to


Jac Hapka

sit in his presence. Jac also had a robust appetite and a singular ability to know when my dad was eating a hot-dog or mom was making spaghetti – and my folks would always share.

Jac’s tenderness was certainly one of his trademarks, but he also possessed the spirit of a warrior. He was arguably the dominant power on our block for more than a decade, keeping the peace and chasing away bullies – including aggressive, much larger dogs. One of my eldest neighbors also enjoyed talking about the night he saw Jac chase away six raccoons who had a tiny female kitten cornered against the side of a house.

I also remember the day another neighbor’s cat, Jessie, became ill and died. Jessie was another rugged neighborhood tomcat, and he shared a number of battles with Jac over the years – we now believe it was through one of these fights that Jac contracted FIV. But on this day, when Jessie crawled into our yard to take his final breaths, Jac stood guard over him, keeping him safe from any other animals who might have wandered into the yard and attacked him. Jac remained with Jessie’s body as Dad and I buried him, and even stood watch at the grave until sunset. Gestures like that are, to me, an example of Jac’s tremendous honor, loyalty, and dignity.

Good health was yet another of Jac’s signature attributes. He was always in good health, and it seemed there was nothing his immune system couldn’t fend off. Even when a series of lethal feline diseases swept through our neighborhood killing outdoor and indoor cats alike, Jac survived unscathed – aside from the obvious grief he experienced when so many of his friends died. Jac’s good health, coupled with street smarts and his physical prowess, made him seem almost invincible.

But all of that changed in the springtime of 1995, when Jac’s health – and his mystique of invincibility – suddenly began to crumble. My lifelong friend who’d never known a sick day in his life was suddenly afflicted with colds and upper respiratory infections he couldn’t overcome, even with antibiotics. Seemingly overnight, his muscle mass disappeared and his powerful physique became scrawny and frail… he looked like a walking skeleton. His once beautiful coat became scraggly and started coming out in handfuls, much like the hair of someone being treated for cancer. Basic tasks like standing and walking were too much for him at times as his energy waned and his legs wobbled.

It was obvious that something was terribly wrong with Jac, but the first two visits with our local veterinary clinic produced no diagnosis and only antibiotics as a proposed treatment. The third visit, however, produced a shocking diagnosis that changed his life and mine forever.

Our local vet walked into the examination room holding Jac’s blood test results, and her expression was unusually somber. She took a deep breath before explaining that Jac had tested positive for FIV. I stared blankly… I didn’t know what this meant. She then tried to clarify her diagnosis by explaining that Jac had tested positive for the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. I still didn’t understand what this was. She then said that Jac had Feline AIDS, and I immediately understood the seriousness of the situation.


Jac was the inspiration for Feline AIDS: A Pet Owner’s Guide

I was all too familiar with AIDS in humans, as I’d volunteered for AIDS charities and projects at the college I was attending. The thought that my lifelong friend was now battling the feline equivalent of this terrible disease made my blood turn to ice.

My mind was racing as I asked the vet what our options were. She gloomily explained there were no medical treatments for Feline AIDS, and euthanasia was typically the first option in such cases. She also said Jac’s immune system was largely gone and he wouldn’t last much longer.

I could barely breathe as I struggled to process this dire prognosis. I didn’t know what to do, but Jac was looking up at me from the examination table, and though he was obviously in bad shape, he didn’t seem ready to quit. I wasn’t ready to give up him either. We’d been through too much together, and euthanizing him without first exhausting every option seemed almost criminal. I was convinced that someone, somewhere, must have figured out a treatment for this horrible disease, and I was determined to find them.

What followed was a frantic series of phone calls to every veterinary clinic in the region. Each of them offered the same bleak prognosis – Feline AIDS was untreatable, always fatal, and euthanasia was their best recommendation.

To this day, I vividly recall the feeling of horror that washed over me as I realized the Feline AIDS treatment plan or expert I was searching for did not exist, and Jac was running out of time. For the first time in his life, he was embroiled in a fight he couldn’t win without my help, and I didn’t know what that help looked like – or if it even existed.

It was almost suppertime when I got the idea to call the largest veterinary school in the state. I hoped they might have treatment protocols the other veterinarians I’d spoken with simply hadn’t heard of yet. But they didn’t.

The most experienced veterinarian at the school kindly took my call, offered his condolences, and flatly assured me there was nothing in the medical universe that would help Jac. I was almost strangely encouraged by this seemingly dire news. The fact that the medical community couldn’t help Jac only meant the help was someplace else – and that gave me a new direction.

I began frantically absorbing all of the information I could about natural healing modalities. I poured through books, sent my local reference librarian on an expedition to find articles, and placed phone calls to a bevy of practitioners from integrated veterinarians and herbalists to classical homeopaths. Each of these resources had some useful information, but not a comprehensive treatment protocol.

I continued my research and through trial and error, a treatment plan began to emerge. The first step was to change the ailing cat’s diet to include a wide selection of raw and cooked meat. I also used carefully selected vitamin supplements, which I whipped up in a blender to create a feline sports drink of sorts. Jac received this supplemental beverage daily, and the results were remarkable.

The raging fevers, endless colds, and dull, scraggly coat all began to fade away. As each day passed, Jac’s energy increased and he began to regain his lost muscle mass. His fur was once again shiny and soft, though he was far from a show cat. His head bore the scars of many street fights – a common way Feline AIDS is spread from one cat to another and, undoubtedly, how Jac came to contract it.


Jac’s gravesite in southern Wisconsin

Sustained by natural treatments, Jac went on to enjoy his senior citizenship. He passed at the ripe old age of 18 from age-related cardiac condition – not Feline AIDS.

The things I learned about FIV while caring for Jac were too important to set aside. I posted a website with basic information about Feline AIDS and some of the things I did to treat Jac, including a recipe for his sports drink.

That simple, preliminary site quickly shot past 100,000 visitors, and I was inundated with requests from desperate cat owners all over the world seeking the same kind of assistance I’d struggled to find when Jac was originally diagnosed. I received phone calls and email from teachers and corporate executives to U.S. military personnel and grade school children. The biggest surprise, though, was when two American zoos contacted me, asking for information when their lions and tigers became ill and tested positive for FIV.

When the demand for information became more than I could handle, my solution was to write a book, Feline AIDS: A Pet Owner’s Guide, which covers everything from symptoms and diagnosis, to whole food nutrition, treatment of mouth sores (a common FIV symptom), necessary euthanasia and grieving.

I’m not a veterinarian, and I would never pretend to be. I’m someone who turned to natural therapies when traditional medicine couldn’t save my cat. In Jac’s case, it proved to be the answer, and countless pet owners have reported favorable results with this approach as well. Not all cats with this disease can be saved, but natural treatments can help many. I still encourage anyone caring for an FIV+ cat to have a good relationship with a traditional vet — but natural treatments are a must for any cat with FIV.

Thomas Hapka is an award-winning writer, holistic consultant, and graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. He learned of FIV in 1995 when his cat, Jac, was diagnosed. Since then, he has consulted with thousands of pet owners around the world. He also studied under Dr. Francis Ehrlich and took classes at the British Institute of Homeopathy. His clients have spanned nine countries and included two American zoos. Hapka’s work has been featured in the magazines Australian National Cat and Animal Wellness.

The updated version of Feline AIDS: A Pet Owner’s Guide, published by Kitter House Press, is scheduled for release in August of 2016.

You can also like or follow us on Twitter @StopFelineAIDS or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/FelineFIVbook/ .


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