“Hi! I’m Sammy. I look like any other healthy brown tabby cat, but I am FIV-positive—that’s short for feline immunodeficiency virus. My friends at Just Cats Clinic have asked me to share my FIV experience with you.
When I was a kitten, we were homeless and we had it rough. My family saw me by the side of the road, and took me in. I was thin and had a few fleas, so the first thing my new family did was take me to Just Cats Clinic for my new kitten check-up. My family usually follows the veterinarian’s recommendations to the letter, but they had heard frightening things about FIV. I was playful and didn’t seem sick, so they were hesitant to test my blood for the virus.
The Just Cats team understood their fears, and listened carefully. Apparently a friend had to euthanize their kitten years ago when they tested FIV-positive. The Just Cats team reassured my family that they would not recommend euthanasia for FIV-positive kittens and cats, because a lot more is now understood about the virus and managing “feline AIDS,” including in multi-cat households like ours. So when I tested positive for FIV, my family was totally prepared.
I am like most FIV-positive cats. I have a happy life with only intermittent health issues. The biggest change for me was becoming an indoor-only cat. I complained a little in the beginning, but it’s been good. My family enriches my environment with lots of toys and an awesome cat tree. I love staying safe inside!
My family has never regretted the decision to test me as a kitten. Armed with knowledge, they are responsible cat owners. Seeing me enjoy a wonderful life makes them proud.”
At Just Cats Clinic, our mission is to help you and your cat have a great life together. Read on to learn the latest about FIV. As Sammy’s story suggests, cat owners have no reason to fear FIV.
What is feline immunodeficiency virus?
FIV infection causes a lowered immune system in cats. The virus is similar to HIV, which causes AIDS in people, but FIV does not infect people. Infected cats remain FIV-positive and are at increased risk of infections and problems throughout their lives. Knowing your cat’s FIV status is crucial, so you can responsibly care for them and for other cats. The prognosis for FIV-positive cats is good overall.
- Sixty percent of infected cats live long, happy lives with only intermittent health problems.
- Twenty percent of FIV-positive cats will have died in five years following diagnosis.
- Twenty percent of FIV-positive cats will experience a lot of health problems.
There is often a long period between when cats are infected and when they begin to have problems fighting infection, and feline AIDS signs begin.
How do cats catch feline immunodeficiency virus?
Most commonly, adult cats transmit FIV through bite wounds. Less common transmission routes include from mother to babies, between adult cats through breeding, and from improperly screened blood transfusions. Casual contact, such as sharing food and water bowls, is a most unlikely route of infection.
How is feline immunodeficiency virus diagnosed?
At Just Cats Clinic, we blood test every kitten for FIV during their well-kitten visits. We also recommend testing at-risk adult cats, such as outdoor cats who fight with other cats, and cats with unusually severe infections. We perform an in-house test that uses only a few drops of blood, and gives results in minutes. If a young cat tests positive on this screening test, we confirm the result with additional testing after 6 months of age.
How is feline immunodeficiency virus treated?
FIV infection has no cure, so we focus on managing the situation. FIV-positive cats should live indoors only, and should be spayed or neutered. They need general monitoring with a physical exam every six months, or anytime a problem arises. FIV cats need a full blood panel and urinalysis at least once per year. Antiviral medication may be recommended in certain cases. Antibiotics and other treatments may be needed to manage infections. We may consider immune stimulants, such as interferon alpha and antioxidants. Regular parasite control is key. To decrease the risk of food-borne illness, never feed raw food to an FIV-positive cat. We will customize a safe vaccination plan for an FIV-positive cat based on risk.
What about living with an FIV-positive cat?
You do not have to isolate your FIV-positive cat from negative household cats, since FIV transmission risk is low, unless they fight and may bite each other. New cats or kittens can safely be introduced to the household, again unless fighting ensues. Having only one FIV-positive cat per household is best, if possible. No vaccine against FIV is currently available in the United States. Keep in mind that immunosuppressed people and FIV-positive cats should not live together, since they both are at greater infection risk.
At Just Cats Clinic, information powers our mission to provide the best for you and your cat. Client education is our passion, so call us with any questions about FIV testing or living with an FIV-positive cat. Remember Sammy’s experience, and make “fear of FIV” a thing of the past.