“It takes all kinds” is definitely the right description for this feline odd couple who made waves at their temporary home at the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in Los Angeles, California.
Sweet Cheeks is a gruff-looking orange tabby with a missing ear. Wampum is a dilute torbie with a hitting problem. Yup, you read that right. Wampum is aptly named – she likes to smack Sweet Cheeks right across his face with her paw. That’s where it gets weird – Sweet Cheeks likes it! He likes the sweet little “love” smacks from his companion.
But that’s not all.
Both felines have feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). They ended up being bunked together, and that is how their relationship started.
Wampum was housed with Sweet Cheeks and another big boy cat that also had FIV at the Adoption Center–she knew she had to find a way to keep those boys in line! As it turned out, her paws were very effective.
“She uses her paws like hands more than any cat I’ve known,” says Samantha Bell, Cat Behavior and Enrichment Lead at the center. “If the other two were getting more attention than her, she’d give playful little smacks to both. Every time they’d walk by her, they’d both squint in anticipation of the smack, but neither of them minded it.”
Despite (or maybe because of) Wampum’s strange way of showing affection, the two became inseparable. See, she would follow each swat with head rubbing, and both would purr loudly. (We are pretty sure those were love pats that she was giving Sweet Cheeks.)
One night, Davis and Ni came to the Adoption Center looking for a cat for their new apartment. It was late, and most of the cats were asleep – but not Wampum and Sweet Cheeks. They were ready to entertain the newcomers with play.
“They both came over and greeted us and then they started playing with each other,” says Davis. “It was ridiculous how cute they were together.”
The people at Best Friends explained to the couple about what living with a cat with FIV is like. Since cats can only get it from another cat through a deep wound, as long as they keep their two kitties indoors, they won’t be putting any neighboring cats at risk. Other than that, they just have to be diligent about keeping them happy and going to the vet at the first sign of a “sniffle.”
“We weren’t concerned [about adopting two cats with FIV],” Davis told iHeartCats. “Well, maybe for a second but everyone at Best Friends LA assured us FIV wasn’t something we should be worried about and they gave us a better understanding of what FIV is. Plus, we were already so in love with Sweet Cheeks and Wampum that it didn’t matter.”
The couple quickly adopted the two feline friends and never looked back.
A Forever Home
Now, Wampum and Sweet Cheeks have settled into their new home and even have their own Instagram account! Davis says that having cats with FIV is just like caring for any other cat.
“The only difference is we pay more attention to their diet and give Sweet Cheeks probiotics once a week but that’s just to help his digestion,” she said.
The two just love each other and spend most of their days snuggling…when they aren’t wrestling.
When asked about advice she would give to people looking to adopt a cat, Davis said this:
Don’t be afraid of older cats and don’t be afraid of FIV. Adopting adult cats is great, their personality is fully formed so you go in really knowing who they are; and once you get them home it’s so clear how happy they are to be off the streets. That was definitely the case with Sweet Cheeks and Wampum.
With FIV, it’s not a death sentence and it’s not a guarantee that you’ll be racking up vet bills. The fact that our cats have FIV actually worked in our favor because it kept them from being adopted due to the stigma. They’re great cats with wonderful, dimensional personalities. Sweet Cheeks is probably the smartest and the sweetest cat I’ve met. It was lucky that we were first time adopters, I think that enabled us to be much more open minded about their condition, and we are so lucky we were.
Wampum and Sweet Cheeks were lucky too, that two such loving and open people decided to give them a warm, forever home.
If you want more information on FIV cats, check out the information page on the Best Friend’s site. Looking for a kitty of your own? Best Friends adopts out all over so be sure to check out their adoption page. You can also help them save more lives by donating here.