Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
If you are considering adopting an FIV cat, please find below some information which may help you understand this condition in cats.
What is FIV?
FIV is a virus that affects a cat’s immune system slowly over a matter of years. It is thought to infect around 4% of cats in the UK. FIV does not infect humans, dogs or other pets.
How do Cats catch FIV?
The virus is present in the blood, saliva and other body fluids of infected cats. It is unable to survive for long periods outside of the cat, so cannot be transferred to other cats from your hands or clothes. Cats pick up the virus from mating behaviour, severe bites during fighting and sometimes from an infected female to her kittens.
Is the condition permanent?
Yes, once a cat is infected with FIV they will produce antibodies which are ineffective and the cat will be FIV positive for the rest of their life.
What are the signs of FIV?
Many infected cats have years of normal life and die of something else entirely before their FIV infection causes any problems. Therefore, it would be unlikely you would suspect your cat has FIV. If the disease develops in infected cats, as the result of a weakened immune system, they may show signs of becoming repeatedly ill e.g. with cat flu, sore gums, skin disease or digestive upsets. Cats may lose weight, take longer to recover from infections or develop tumours. It is important that your FIV cat gets veterinary care if they show any signs of ill health.
Is there any treatment for FIV?
There is no current reliable treatment or vaccine for FIV but vets will treat cats for their symptoms which could involve antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, or anti- viral drugs. Therefore, it is important to keep infected cats indoors, with a good diet, ensuring they are neutered, fully vaccinated and regularly treated against fleas and worms. This will help protect them from secondary infections, as well as help to prevent the spread of FIV to other cats.
Cats Protection recommends that FIV-positive cats are kept indoors and only allowed outside in an impenetrable garden or safe fun. They should not be allowed direct contact with FIV-negative cats.
Caring for an FIV Cat
A cat with FIV needs:
- A healthy diet
- A comfortable, stable and enriched environment either entirely indoors or in a very protected outside area.
- Your love and companionship
- Regular veterinary check ups to ensure good health including annual vaccines
- Parasite control – fleas, ticks, worms, mites etc
Rehoming a cat with FIV
FIV cats can enjoy a long and very happy life, and make wonderful companions. Adopting a FIV positive cat can be very rewarding and just like non-infected cats, have all the usual needs such as mental stimulation, a good diet and plenty of love from you!
Reference: Cats Protection Veterinary Guide 9 – FIV and FeLV