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FIV in Cats: Frequently Asked Questions

April 7, 2016 - Nate Needs

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What is FIV?  FIV stands for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, and it causes a weakening of a cat’s immune system.  It is a kitty version of HIV in humans.

What are the symptoms of FIV?  Sometimes, there are no symptoms at all.  FIV is a retrovirus that can incubate inside the body for months and sometimes even years, and it’s a very slow-moving virus.  When there are symptoms, they can be all over the map – there is no one symptom that definitively points to FIV.  A cat can show signs of illness interspersed with periods of health.  However, you should always take your cat to the vet when it shows symptoms like enlarged lymph nodes, weight loss, or diarrhea.

How will the vet know if my cat has FIV?  The only way to know is by doing a blood test.  A cat can test positive from 2-4 weeks after exposure, but it can sometimes take longer.  Kittens can test positive after having received the antibodies from their mother’s milk, so it’s always a good idea to retest the kitten later on, since it takes up to six months for those antibodies to go away.  (Actually, it’s always a good idea to retest a cat that tested positive – around 60% of FIV tests are false positives!)

How is FIV transmitted?  The most common way is through a bite wound from an FIV-positive cat to another cat.  It can also be transmitted through blood, in utero, and through a mother’s milk.

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Can a cat with FIV live with other cats?  Absolutely, as long as the cats get along and do not fight.  FIV is not spread through bowl-sharing, litter-box-sharing, or other casual forms of contact – only through blood/bite wounds.  Some cat owners choose to keep their FIV-positive cat in a separate room/floor from their other cats, which seems to work well for them.

Can I get FIV from a cat?  No, absolute not!

What is the treatment for FIV?  There is no specific treatment for the virus itself.  The secondary diseases that come about as a result of FIV, however, can usually be treated.

How can I keep my cat from getting FIV?  First and foremost, keep your cat in the house; this ensures that he cannot get into a fight with an FIV-positive cat.  Recently adopted cats should always be tested for FIV before being brought into the house.  Always spay and neuter your cats – this reduces the likelihood of fighting.  There is a vaccine for FIV, but it is rather controversial – you’ll want to consult your vet about it first.

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I have an FIV-positive cat – how can I keep him healthy?  Be sure to regularly monitor your cat for any changes or symptoms, and bring him to the vet if you notice anything out of the ordinary.  Always keep him inside to prevent him from spreading the virus to other cats; this will also protect him from things outdoors that could bring on infection or disease.  It is also very important to keep your regular vet visits – at least twice a year – to make sure your kitty stays healthy.

Will my FIV-positive cat have a short lifespan?  Not necessarily!  If you keep him indoors and visit the vet regularly, FIV-positive cats can live relatively normal, healthy lives.  The secondary diseases your cat may pick up as a result of the virus can almost always be treated.

There is an adorable FIV-positive kitty up for adoption at my local shelter.  Should I adopt it, or are the risks too great?  If you have another cat at home, you will first need to make sure that neither one will fight with the other, or that you have a separate room for the new kitty to live in.  Otherwise, go for it!  FIV-positive cats often lead very healthy and comfortable lives, so there is no reason to forgo adopting one just because of the virus.

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While A.P.E. doesn’t currently have any FIV-positive kitties up for adoption (we have one in foster care who needs to be socialized before being adopted), we do have lots of gorgeous cats available, from baby to senior, and in all sorts of beautiful colors!  This includes Hudson, whose photo is above!  Check them out here!

Sources:  Best Friends Animal Society, PetMD, ASPCA

 

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Nate Needs

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