Thank you for considering welcoming this special cat into your home. This fact sheet will help to answer any questions you may have about this condition.
What is FIV?
Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is an infection with a retrovirus and is only found in cats – humans, dogs, and other species cannot get FIV. Generally, it is contracted through deep bite wounds, but in rare cases it may also be contracted by kittens from an infected mother. Cats infected with FIV may gradually develop a weakened immune system which predisposes them to develop a variety of other diseases as well as certain types of cancers. In our facility, we run a blood test on cats we consider high risk to identify infected individuals.
What are the signs of FIV disease?
FIV infected cats generally do not show signs of infection early on, but cats may have a fever and/or swollen lymph nodes. Once infected, cats can carry the virus for years with no signs of illness. The virus can lead to reduced immune function and this may result in secondary disease. Possible signs include weight loss, poor appetite, poor fur coat, respiratory disease (sneeze, cough, nasal discharge), bladder infections, eye infections, and GI disease (diarrhea, vomiting).
What is the treatment?
Unfortunately, there is no treatment that will directly treat FIV. However, most of the secondary issues cats can develop are treatable. For cats with signs of disease, some veterinarians recommend courses of drugs that stimulate (and improve function of) the immune system.You can help avoid infections by keeping your cat indoors, providing preventives like monthly flea medication, and avoiding raw diets or undercooked meats. Establish yearly check-ups with your veterinarian. Should any signs of illness develop such as change in behavior, appetite, or bathroom habits you should follow-up with your veterinarian as soon as possible. It is impossible to predict the life expectancy of an individual cat, but scientific studies show FIV cats are just as likely to live a normal lifespan as cats without FIV.
What should I do if I have other cats?
FIV+ cats can live with other cats, but slow, proper introductions are necessary. Though the virus is not easily spread, a severe cat fight including deep bites could infect a cat with FIV. Non-aggressive contact such as sharing food and water bowls, play-fighting, and mutual grooming cannot spread FIV. All cats should be spayed and neutered, as cats fight more often when intact (i.e. not neutered). Scientific studies monitoring groups of cats that were spayed and neutered demonstrated that FIV-infected cats did not spread the disease to the other cats.