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Posted on Tue, Jul 30, 2013 : 6 a.m.

Feline blood transfusions: Michigan-based Nine Lives Blood Services lets donors live a full life while helping others

By Ann Arbor Animal Hospital

This is the second in our series about feline blood transfusions and some of the cats who are donors. Today we discuss an area blood bank, dedicated to supplying feline blood for needed transfusions at the Ann Arbor Animal Hospital.

Cats all over the country need blood transfusions. It might be due to trauma, surgery, cancer or infectious disease.

Because of the unique nature of cats, feline blood products are harder to supply than canine blood products. 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 minimum of six different blood tests, which includes FeLV/FIV, complete blood count, blood chemistry, blood type, mycoplasma and bartonella.

Cats have three different blood types: A, B and AB. Cats are very different from dogs in that they must receive type-specific blood transfusions. If a cat receives the wrong blood, it can be life-threatening. Because cats require some type of sedation or anesthesia for the blood donation many owners are unwilling to let their cat be a volunteer donor. Due to this complex process it is often easier for veterinarians to order blood from a commercial blood bank when needed.

There are currently about five commercial blood banks in the United States who supply feline blood. Some vet clinics have a cat that lives at the office to donate blood when needed. This poses some problems such as where do they live in the clinic, what do they have for enrichment and finding them a home when it comes time for retirement.


A cat at Nine Lives Blood Services enjoying a romp in a sink.

Photo courtesy of NLBS

Though blood banks supplying feline blood are rare, there is one practically in our backyard. Nine Lives Blood Services is a feline-only blood bank located in Lansing.

All the cats come from county animal controls or the humane society. These are adult cats with few options for placement. All the cats are spayed or neutered, vaccinated and have passed all the blood testing.

They are group housed in large open runs with lots of play and enrichment opportunities including fountains, climbers, toys and multi-level resting perches. Cats are matched with other cats of similar personalities for housing.

They donate blood about once a month, and after 15 months of service they are available for adoption. If for some reason a cat is retired from donating, they stay with Nine Lives until an appropriate home can be found.

These cats ensure that blood is available for a cat in need of a transfusion while still having living life to the fullest.

David Caddell is the hospital director of the Ann Arbor Animal Hospital, a locally owned and operated Companion Animal Hospital. David can be reached at 734-662-4474 or