Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is the cat version of AIDS. Unlike human AIDS there is no medication or cocktail that can slow the stages. Although the virus is slow-acting, a cat’s immune system is severely weakened once the disease takes hold. This makes the cat susceptible to various secondary infections. Infected cats who receive supportive medical care and are kept in a stress-free, indoor environment can live relatively comfortable lives for months to years before the disease reaches its chronic stages.
How Is FIV Transmitted? FIV is mainly passed from cat to cat through deep bite wounds, the kind that usually occur outdoors during aggressive fights and territorial disputes—the perfect reason to keep your cat inside.
Which Cats Are Most Prone to FIV? Although any feline is susceptible, free-roaming, outdoor intact male cats who fight most frequently contract the disease. Cats who live indoors are the least likely to be infected.
Can a Person Catch FIV from a Cat? No. FIV cannot be transmitted from cat to human, only from cat to cat.
How Is FIV Treated? Unfortunately, there is no specific antiviral treatment for FIV. Cats can carry the virus for a long time before symptoms appear. Therefore, treatment focuses mainly on extending the asymptomatic period or, if symptoms have set in, on easing the secondary effects of the virus. Your veterinarian may prescribe some of the following treatments:
Medication for secondary infections
Healthy, palatable diet to encourage good nutrition
Fluid and electrolyte replacement therapy
How Do I Care for My FIV-Infected Cat?
Keep your cat indoors. This will protect him from contact with disease-causing agents to which he may be susceptible. By bringing your cat indoors, you’re also protecting the uninfected cats in your community.
Watch for changes—even seemingly minor—in your cat’s health and behavior. Immediately report any health concerns to your vet.
Bring your cat to your vet at least twice per year for a wellness checkup, blood count and urine analysis.
Feed your cat a nutritionally balanced food—no raw food diets, please, as bacteria and parasites in uncooked meat and eggs can be dangerous to immunocompromised pets.
Be sure your cat is spayed or neutered.
A cat that contracts FIV will usually still have a strong immune system for several years after infection. It is only over time that the effects of the virus may start to show, and even then most infections can be treated with the appropriate medications. With love and good care however, many FIV+ cats can live normal lifespans. These days it's not unusual to find FIV+ cats reaching 15 years or more.
If you still have questions about FIV, please feel free to check out the following links:
This information was provided by a veterinarian who translated various articles for one of our volunteers from the internet. Many of the articles are written in medical terminology and can be hard to understand. We have heard many stories from rescuers who indicated that kittens can become negative after a few months. This information seemed to contradict what many articles state. The following is our volunteer's understanding of the disease, we are thankful she has compiled this information to share!
The test for FELV is accurate in that a positive test result is 97% accurate that the cat has FELV; but, the cat can have FELV even if the results are negative. This would require a second, more expensive test to totally rule out the disease. Your vet can help you determine if this test is necessary. When born to a positive FELV mom, the kittens will be positive, and the disease will not go away. It can appear as if it has gone away because after four to 16 months, the virus will leave the blood stream and become cellular where it will reside in the bone marrow. This is why false negative results can appear. The other blood test can detect the disease at the cellular level.
The kitten or cat still has the ability to transmit the disease to an unvaccinated cat; although, with healthy cats, this can take up to two years of grooming, sharing food and water dishes and playing around together. The vaccine to protect your other cats is 99% effective four weeks after vaccination. If you have an immune compromised cat that doesn’t have the disease and hasn’t been vaccinated before, you should not risk the contact. Talk to your veterinarian about the vaccine risks for your immune compromised cat.
At some point when the FELV positive cat experiences significant stress or has an immune compromising illness, the FELV disease will become active and your cat will die of the disease or complications. It is impossible to say if their life will be shortened as a result of the disease. You should also not assume that the veterinary costs will be more than with another cat; only that you know there will be higher vet costs at some point. However, this is true of any cats as they get older when you are attuned to their health needs. The disease should not prevent you from opening you home to an FELV positive cat unless you have an immune compromised cat or limited means to maintain vaccinations for your existing cat.
Thanks you for taking the time to learn more about this disease and LAPCATS should not be held liable for any information provided in this article.
If you still have questions about FeLV, please feel free to check out the following links: