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FIV cats Q&A

25 May 2020

Q. What is feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)?

A. FIV in cats is a virus similar to human HIV, although there is no risk of people catching HIV/AIDS from infected cats. FIV damages the white blood cells so infected cats have lower immunity to other viruses and bacteria. Infection is permanent – FIV cannot be cured. Infected FIV cats are identified by a blood test.
                          

Q. What are the symptoms of FIV infection?

A. The symptoms following infection with the virus are usually mild. The cat may have a mild fever for a few weeks and there may be enlargement of the lymph nodes. But often, cats infected with FIV appear completely normal for months or years. `                                                                                                         

Q. How do FIV cats get infected?

A. The virus passes from cat to cat in saliva, usually through biting in fights. Un-neutered male cats are considerably more at risk because a single bite may be enough to infect a cat. And a cat can be infected by biting an FIV infected cat. About a quarter of the kittens born to an infected mother will be infected and there is a small chance that the virus can be transmitted through sharing food bowls and by cats grooming each other. The virus dies outside the cat within a few hours so infection is not easily carried on objects.

Q. Is there a FIV cat vaccine?

A. There is no vaccine available currently in the UK. A vaccine is used in the United States, but it is not reliable and it does not work against all types of FIV. It also poses problems for vets because a vaccinated cat will test positive for FIV.
 

Q. My cat is infected – do I really need to keep him indoors?

A. Yes. Cats with the FIV virus can infect others, so should be kept indoors, unless you are able to completely cat-proof all or part of your garden. FIV cats have low immunity, so need to be kept away from other cats for their own safety.

Q. Do FIV cats have to be put to sleep?

A. No. Recent studies have indicated that FIV may not reduce a cat’s lifespan, and cats can live for many years after being infected. However, it is unpredictable, as some cats develop severe and multiple infections. Many FIV cats live long and happy lives.                                                                                                                                            

Q. I have other cats in my household. What should I do?

A. Infected cats are a possible source of infection so other cats in the household should be FIV-tested. Ideally, all FIV-positive cats should be isolated or rehomed where there will be no contact with other cats. It is possible to keep more than one FIV cat together.

Q. Could I adopt an FIV cat?

A. Yes! Cats Protection are always looking for indoor homes with understanding owners who will love an FIV cat. Contact us to find out more.