donor can be selected from other cats in the same household or,
as is more common, from an animal shelter. At university facilities
donors are often selected from a research colony of cats who have
been involved in benign experiments such as nutritional studies.
Well established transplant facilities have made the necessary
arrangements with local SPCA or Humane Society personnel. The
donor is generally between one and three years old, the same relative
size as the recipient and must be screened for disease and other
a compatible donor is relatively easy since cats are far more
genetically similar than humans with about 99 percent of American
domestic shorthairs having the same "A" type blood.
The process for verifying a match is to literally mix fresh blood
from the recipient and the donor and then look under the microscope
for any signs of clotting or incompatibility. There is no need
for tissue matching and the donor can be male or female no matter
what sex the recipient is. In some cat breeds (especially British
Shorthair, Cornish Rex and Devon Rex) the occurrence of type "B"
blood is as high as 50 percent and finding a matching donor can
be more difficult. Other breeds with significant percentages of
Type "B" blood include the Abyssinian, Himalayan, Japanese
Bobtail, Persian, Somali and Sphinx breeds. There is a third feline
blood type, "AB", but this is extremely rare.
the donor is to be selected from a shelter, the transplant staff
will visit the shelter and identify one or more potential donors.
If there are multiple donor candidates you may select from among
them. This is a very important part of the process because this
new cat will become a part of your family, whether the transplant
procedure is successful or not. Time should be taken to get to
know your new adoptee, decide on a name and develop a bond. Focus
on the fact that, no matter how the transplant turns out, you
will have rescued and provided a home for this new family member.
This bonding is essential and will help to overcome any negative
or ambiguous feelings if the transplant is not successful.
of the donor is essentially the same as for any major surgical
procedure. The donor is shaved, primarily on the abdomen and chest.
The donor's risk is no more than for any major surgery and because
the donor must be young and fit, problems are rare.
Treatment and Homecoming
transplant donor, in the hospital the day after the surgery.
and Buffalo's story in the CRF Tributes Gallery.
the surgery, it is generally possible for the donor to go to his
new home in just a few days while the recipient normally remains
in the hospital longer. This period provides an ideal time to
get to know the donor and vice versa. Follow-up care, which is
minimal, includes a trip to the local vet to have the stitches
or staples removed and a short course of precautionary antibiotics.
The life expectancy for the donor is considered to be no less
than for cats with both kidneys; the donor is no more subject
to renal failure than a normal cat with two kidneys. The remaining
kidney in the donor enlarges to provide about 75% of the total
function of two kidneys. This is far in excess of the 25-30% threshold
required for normal function.
are lingering ethical questions concerning animal transplants
and most center around the donor. Some shelters are bound by general
rules that prevent them from cooperating with transplant facilities.
The feline kidney transplant program was established with a strict
donor adoption requirement and sacrificing the donor for the benefit
of the recipient was not an option; both cats were to be treated
with equal importance and care. As transplants become available
at more facilities, it is important to be certain that the veterinary
surgeon you select is qualified, experienced and in tune with
your personal feelings on the ethical issues.