Learn About Feline Immunodeficiency Virus

Did you know that cats can get a feline version of AIDS?  Did you also know that this does not need to be a death sentence for your cat? Felines with this virus can live long, happy lives with good health care and lots of loving support from their human parents.

What is feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)?
It is a virus that infects cats only and causes reduced functioning of the immune system. It can also cause a syndrome similar to AIDS in people. The feline virus does NOT infect humans or other species.

How is FIV spread?
It is most often spread through cat bites sustained in a cat fight. It is occasionally transmitted to kittens by their mothers.

What are the signs of FIV?
In the early phase of the illness, lasting 4-6 weeks cats may show the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Depression
  • Enlarged lymph nodes (lymph glands)

Illness may be mild and not noticeable and after this early phase may appear normal for years. But unfortunately, the virus continues to destroy the cat’s ability to fight infection. In the more advanced phases, FIV+ cats may show recurring eye, mouth, respiratory, ear, skin and gastrointestinal infections and/or repeated abscesses. Some cats develop anemia, personality changes, cancer or kidney failure.

If your cat is showing the early signs or some of the more advanced signs, it is very important that you contact your veterinarian for an appointment to determine if your cat may have FIV. Diagnosis is through a blood test but there are some factors that may complicate the findings:

  • Cats in the very early stages of infection may not test positive
  • Cats that have been vaccinated against FIV will always test positive so infection cannot be confirmed
  • Kittens may test positive from maternal antibodies if their mother was FIV+
  • Kittens should be retested 4-6 weeks from the original test and again at 6 months old to confirm or rule out infection

Caring for your FIV+ cat:

  • Currently, there is no antiviral treatment for FIV
  • Once infected, cats remain infected for life
  • Most cats can live for years without major health concerns
  • Some cats will be prescribed antibiotics for secondary bacterial infections that arise
  • FIV+ cats should be kept indoors for the safety of other cats and to limit their exposure to diseases
  • Feed a high-quality diet
  • Provide fresh water at all times
  • Minimize stress to keep their immune function as strong as possible
  • Contact your veterinarian immediately to report any signs of infection as your cat will have limited ability to fight disease


Learn About Feline Immunodeficiency Virus

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Copyright 2013 Connecticut Humane Society

Copyright 2013 Connecticut Humane Society