Many folks looking to adopt a cat hear the letters FIV or the name Feline Immunodeficiency Virus and turn away immediately without truly understanding that an FIV cat will have all of the normal loving and fun traits of an uninfected cat. I would like to take a moment to present some educational information on this misunderstood condition.
Feline Immunodeficiency has been around for many years. FIV is only spread from cat to cat. It cannot be spread to humans or other animals. The virus depletes a cat’s white blood cell count. Without treatment, an infected cat will eventually be unable to fight off infections. The virus is transmitted through blood or saliva. The most common way a cat contracts FIV is through biting. It is most often seen in outdoor unneutered male cats, although it can also be passed from a mother to her kittens.
Some important facts about adopting an FIV cat:
- FIV cats can live in the same household along with cats that do NOT have it
- FIV is NOT transmitted through routine contact, sharing litter boxes or food bowls
- FIV cats can live the same long healthy lives as cats without FIV
- An FIV cat does best in a low stress home
- FIV is a feline disease. It can NOT be transmitted to other animals or people
- House cats that are allowed outdoors are far MORE likely to contract FIV than a cat living in a home with an FIV positive cat
Currently in the United States, 1.5% to 3% of healthy cats are FIV positive. These are cats that may or may not develop further symptoms showing illness. It is important to recognize the signs of an FIV cat. Signs that a cat has become infected can vary, however, the most common are gingivitis (gum inflammation), diarrhea, sneezing, sniffling, a discharge from the nose or eyes, or even possible kidney failure. If you notice any of the FIV signs listed above, take your cat to your vet as soon as possible. While there is no cure for FIV, treatments that boost the infected cat’s immune system such as antibiotics are quite effective in helping manage infections.
Prevent the spread of FIV in your community by practicing common sense and responsible pet ownership:
- Have your cat spayed or neutered
- Keep cat vaccinations up to date
- Keep your cat indoors
Have more concerns or questions? Consult your veterinarian and visit the following sites for more information.