Each year, thousands of FIV+ cats are brought into shelters and a very small percentage of them find a forever home. This is mainly because there is a stigma attached to cats who are FIV+ and cat owners not wanting to mix them with FIV- cats. It is time to spread a little truth and some facts on FIV+ that you may not have known!
What Is FIV?
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), which has also been known as Feline AIDS, is a viral disease which affects only cats, typically outdoor cats. The virus is slow-acting and an FIV+ cat may not show any symptoms for years.
What Are the Symptoms of FIV?
There are many symptoms of an FIV+ cat and if you notice your cat displaying any of the following, take them for a vet examination.
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Weight loss
- Messy coat
- Bad appetite
- Dental disease
- Redness of skin or hair loss
- Excessive sneezing
- Fluid discharge from eyes or nose
- Urinating outside of the litter box
- Behavior changes
FIV+ cats also have weakened immune systems and will require at least yearly check-ups with a vet.
Cats With FIV Live Full Lives
A cat who contracts the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus was once believed to live a much shorter life and be a huge risk to other cats. Because of this, it was a common practice for shelters and clinics to put them down. Thanks to several studies we have learned this just isn’t true! While a cat who is FIV+ has a weaker immune system, most have the same lifespan as an FIV- cat when living indoors. In some rare cases where the virus is weak, a young cat’s immune system may even fight the virus off entirely.
FIV Is Not Highly Contagious
Unlike FelV (Feline Leukemia Virus) that is airborne and easily spread, FIV takes more than sharing bowls or cat scratches to infect other cats. The only way the virus is spread is through a very deep bite wound. This is more commonly seen among feral cats fighting over females, territory, and food. Adopted cats who venture outdoors are at a much greater risk of contracting FIV and this is one of the many reasons to never allow your cat to free-roam outdoors. Consider buying or building a catio for your cat to enjoy the outdoors safely.
Infected Cats Can Live With Non-Infected Cats
In most cases, there is very little risk of an FIV+ cat giving another household cat the virus. Unless you have a very aggressive cat who is prone to fights and generally doesn’t like other cats, adopting an FIV+ cat is an option you can, and should, consider.
False Positives Happen
When it comes to kittens and some younger adult cats, false positives for FIV do happen. It is a good idea to get a second or third test 6 to 8 months after the first one if your cat is under the age of 2. This is especially true for kittens who were born from a mother who is FIV+.
- If you decide to adopt a cat who is FIV+ or have a cat who recently contracted the disease, you will want to monitor their health as they get older.
- Because FIV causes a cat to have a weaker immune system, they are more prone to teeth and gum issues such as infections and tooth loss.
- Some FIV+ cats are also prone to food allergies so if one is present, it is best to remove the allergen from their diet.
- Supporting your FIV+ cat with a food sourced multi-vitamin when another cat has a cold or flu under the same roof is a good idea.
- Anti-biotics are known for weakening the immune system long-term so it is best to limit those unless your cat really needs them.