FIV In Cats: Everything You Need To Know


Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is an infectious disease similar to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which can lead to AIDS in cats if left untreated.

However, FIV isn’t transmitted from cat to cat the way HIV is, and therefore it doesn’t pose as great of a threat to other animals or humans.

Here’s everything you need to know about FIV in cats and how you can keep your kitty safe and healthy!


What is Feline Immunodeficiency Virus?

Feline immunodeficiency virus, also known as FIV, is a slow-acting viral disease that affects the immune system of cats. FIV is considered one of the most common diseases among domesticated and stray cats.

It does not have a cure and there is no way to prevent it except for early detection. Cats with FIV typically don’t show symptoms until about five years after they’ve been infected.

The average life expectancy for an infected cat is four to six years. For these reasons, many owners are hesitant to adopt or purchase a cat who has already tested positive for FIV.

Fortunately, there are ways to minimize the risk of transmitting the virus from an infected cat to another animal at home. 

Maintaining good hygiene around all animals in your household will help minimize transmission risks. If possible, keep your pet’s food bowls separate from those of other animals, and wash any dishes used by all pets before sharing them again.

Make sure to replace litterboxes when necessary, using new bags when applicable. When your pet goes outside to go potty, pick up their waste and dispose of it properly so that they do not come into contact with their feces again.

Avoid physical contact between any animals in the house if possible, such as cuddling or playing together on the floor; this may lead to transferring bodily fluids.


How can I tell if my cat has it?

Your veterinarian will do a blood test for FIV, which detects antibodies your cat produces against the virus. However, because some infected cats do not produce antibodies, testing positive does not mean that the cat is currently infected.

If a newly adopted or stray cat tests positive for FIV and is not yet sick, keep it isolated from other animals until it can be vaccinated against viruses such as feline leukemia.

Vaccinating cats with FIV helps keep them healthy and should reduce any possible spread of infection to others.

Vaccination is important whether the cat lives indoors or outdoors, but outdoor-only cats who are allowed inside are more likely to be exposed to other animals outside (and vice versa).

Vaccination also protects kittens from being born with severe immunodeficiency disease (feline AIDS) caused by both FIV and FeLV. Kittens have an increased risk of contracting FIV if their mother was infected during pregnancy.

Kittens who contract FIV while they’re still nursing may have trouble building up their own immune system after weaning, so they should be given special attention.

If one kitten in a litter contracts the virus and dies, all kittens in that litter should receive vaccination after six weeks old to protect them from exposure when they begin exploring their environment on their own at around eight weeks old.


What are the treatment options?

Your vet will suggest one of the following treatments for your cat with FIV. He or she may offer more than one option, but you should ask questions before making a decision.

The first treatment that most vets recommend is corticosteroids and antibiotics. You’ll also want to get vaccinated against feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).

If the cat is an outdoor cat, they might also recommend some form of protection against fleas and ticks too. Other options include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, immune system suppressants, anti-anxiety medications, or a combination of these drugs.

The choice depends on the severity of symptoms such as fever and fatigue. In some cases, your vet might prescribe different treatments depending on how severe the symptoms are.

For example, if your cat has had a previous viral infection without developing any signs of FIV, then it may be given corticosteroids and antibiotics only.

If their temperature exceeds 39 degrees Celsius (102 degrees Fahrenheit), then they would be prescribed both steroids and antibiotics.

In cases where the symptoms are very mild, then just supportive care may be enough.


How can I prevent my cat from contracting it?

In the United States, FIV is primarily a problem among feral and stray cats. However, FIV is also common among pet cats that come into contact with an infected cat or consume food and water contaminated by infected feces.

There are a few ways you can help reduce your cat’s risk of contracting FIV:

-Feed canned or moistened food instead of dry kibble.

-Use a separate feeding area for any unvaccinated newcomer to your household and other outside cats.

-Do not let your cat eat raw or undercooked meat products. 

-Keep areas where litter boxes are kept clean by scooping daily and washing them weekly with soap and hot water. 

Adopt from a shelter as opposed to purchasing from a breeder. Shelters have been shown to be less likely to sell pets who test positive for FIV.

-Have your veterinarian vaccinate all new pets against feline viral rhinotracheitis (a respiratory disease) and calicivirus (an intestinal disease).

These diseases are often carried by infected cats but usually do not cause illness in vaccinated animals. The vaccine does not protect against FIV; however, it can prevent some of the viruses that may predispose your cat to get FIV if exposed.

What else should I know?

Unvaccinated cats contract these diseases more easily than vaccinated ones. If possible, try not to keep these cats near healthy cats; they should stay outdoors if possible.

Always avoid situations that may lead to biting and scratching, such as interactions with wild animals or fighting with other cats while playing.


How can I protect other cats?

It is very difficult for a cat to get infected with FIV. It is only passed from cat to cat by deep bite wounds, and this type of contact rarely happens outside of fighting.

The best thing that can be done is to keep cats from getting into territorial disputes with unfamiliar neighbors, which can help lower the risk of a fight breaking out.

Preventing injury should also be taken seriously; wearing a collar that has identification tags will make it easier to identify your pet if they do get lost or injured.

Remember to always supervise pets when they are outdoors so they don’t have any unsupervised interactions with other animals.

Lastly, provide plenty of resources for them such as food, water, and shelter to ensure their safety even during periods when humans are not able to provide care for them.


Other FAQs

A Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is a virus that can make it hard for a cat’s immune system to fight off infection. There are different strains of the virus, and not all strains cause illness.

It’s possible for a healthy cat to become infected with FIV during their lifetime, or for an infected cat to develop FIV-related complications as they age.

Your veterinarian may recommend routine blood tests to monitor your cat’s health. When one develops FIV-related symptoms, the prognosis depends on how much damage has been done by then.

Infected cats should be kept indoors and away from other animals, especially those belonging to other households, who could contract the disease through direct contact or through food bowls shared between pets in different homes.

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