A Misunderstood Condition
The concurrence of the discovery of FIV and HIV in the 1980’s—and the relatively frighteningly unknown nature of the latter—caused confusion and had a negative impact on cats diagnosed with FIV. Before more extensive research was done, shelters and veterinarians often euthanized FIV-positive cats without giving them any chance to find loving homes. Even to this day, despite the fact that this condition is entirely manageable, many shelters across the country do not have programs devoted to finding homes for FIV-positive cats.
What is FIV?
FIV stands for “Feline Immunodeficiency Virus.”
Can humans, dogs, or other species catch FIV?
No, FIV only affects cats.
Is FIV fatal? What are the symptoms?
The most common cause of death in cats with FIV is old age. FIV-positive housecats rarely show any symptoms of the disease and usually live long, happy lives. When complication do arise, it’s generally in cats who have been fending for themselves outdoors over a long period of time and are not in good overall health.
Is FIV contagious?
FIV is transmitted from one cat to another by deep puncture wounds. It is NOT spread by casual contact. (In other words, kitties can’t catch FIV from grooming each other, sharing food bowls, sharing a litterbox, etc.) Unneutered males are most at risk for catching FIV since they are more likely to fight with other kitties. Studies have shown that friendly, altered FIV-positive cats are highly unlikely to spread the virus to other kitties in the home.
Can FIV-positive kitties live with cats who don’t have the virus?
That depends on the situation. As mentioned above, a kitty that gets along with the other felines in the household is unlikely to transmit the virus. When introducing FIV-positive and FIV-negative kitties, make sure you give them a careful, slow introduction to prevent any serious fighting or biting.
How do I care for an FIV-positive kitty?
There is usually no medication or special treatment required for FIV. You can take the following steps to help your kitty stay healthy and happy:
- Keep FIV+ kitties indoors so that they can’t get into fights with other neighborhood kitties.
- Feed your FIV+ kitty a healthy diet of high quality food
- Keep your FIV+ kitty up to date on vaccinations and veterinary check-ups
Do you have FIV-positive cats at SAFe Rescue?
We often take in FIV-positive cats. In some cases, these kitties have no other place to find safety and would otherwise be euthanized. We have been able to find loving homes for many FIV-positive cats who are now leading long, happy lives!