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While feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) in cats can be life threatening, many cats are able to live long and happy lives with the virus. We’ve put together a guide on recognising and managing FIV in cats.

What is FIV?

FIV, often called feline AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome), is a virus in cats that weakens a cat’s immune system. This means they could get very unwell or even die from illnesses and diseases a healthy cat could survive, so they need a few adjustments make sure they live a happy and full life. Unfortunately there is no treatment for FIV in cats.

The virus is often compared to HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) in humans.

Symptoms of FIV in cats

FIV takes a long time to develop in cats, sometimes up to five years before they show symptoms. Symptoms to look out for include:

  • getting unwell a lot
  • sore mouth and gums
  • getting diarrhoea all the time
  • dull fur
  • going off their food
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • weight loss
  • runny eyes and nose
  • lethargy
  • taking a long time to recover from infections

You should make an appointment with your vet if your cat seems unwell at all so they can get checked over.

How can I stop my cat getting FIV?

There’s no vaccine or treatment to prevent your cat getting FIV. However, getting your cat neutered may reduce the risk of them getting FIV.

FIV is passed between cats mainly through their saliva (so if they bite each other) and by blood and other bodily fluids. This means the virus can be transferred during fighting and mating. A queen can also pass it on to her kittens.

Neutering your cat has lots of benefits, including preventing them from transferring the virus during mating, roaming as far and making them less likely to fight – particularly if you have a male cat. This then lowers the risk of your cat catching FIV.

Find out more about neutering your cat

How to care for a cat with FIV

If your cat has FIV or you’re thinking of adopting a cat with FIV, there’s no reason they can’t still live a full and happy life. You will have to make some changes though and treat them slightly different to a healthy cat. For an FIV cat, you’ll need to think about:

  • a single cat household. To stop the spread of FIV, it’s important to keep a cat who has tested positive for FIV as the only cat in the home
  • being an indoor cat. Cats with FIV need to be kept away from other cats to prevent the spread, so FIV cats need to be kept indoors. This will also prevent them from picking up other illnesses. They can still have controlled access to the outdoors, for example by using a ‘catio’ attached to the house so that your cat can access it as and when they please. You should also make sure they have plenty to keep them happy and occupied inside. Read more about keeping indoor cats happy and healthy
  • keeping them healthy. It’s really important to keep an FIV cat healthy and take them to the vet as soon as they show signs of being unwell. Make sure they are vaccinated and given regular boosters. Keep up with their usual flea and worming treatments, too
  • letting them be a cat! An FIV diagnosis isn’t a death sentence for cats. They can still live a full and happy life and you can help them by providing lots of love, care and playtime

Can I adopt a cat with FIV?

Occasionally some of our branches and centres may have an FIV cat who needs rehoming. It’s important to do plenty of research before committing to adopt a cat with extra needs (such as one with FIV). You will need to be prepared to take on a cat who needs to stay indoors and you may have to shop around more for pet insurance.

Can I put a cat with FIV in a cattery?

Most catteries won’t have a problem taking care of an FIV cat, as the virus isn’t transferred via hands or clothes and can be killed with disinfectant. It’s always best to check first, though, and make sure your cat’s vaccinations are up to date.

 

Can people or other animals catch FIV from cats?

FIV is a virus specific to cats. While it can be passed from one cat to another, humans and other animals such as dogs cannot get FIV.

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