Cat FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus)
who are infected with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) may not show symptoms
until years after the initial infection occurred. Although the virus is
slow-acting, a cat’s immune system is severely weakened once the disease takes
hold. This makes the cat susceptible to various secondary infections. Infected
cats who receive supportive medical care and are kept in a stress-free, indoor
environment can live relatively comfortable lives for months to years before
the disease reaches its chronic stages.
Many people confuse FIV with feline leukemia virus (FeLV). Although these
diseases are in the same retrovirus family and cause many similar secondary
conditions FeLV and FIV are different diseases.
What Are the Symptoms of FIV?
An FIV-infected cat may not show any symptoms for years. Once
symptoms do develop, however, they may continually progress -or a cat may show
signs of sickness interspersed with health for years. If your cat is
demonstrating any of the following symptoms, please have examined by your
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Weight loss
- Disheveled coat
- Poor appetite
- Abnormal appearance or inflammation of the eye (conjunctivitis)
- Inflammation of the gums (gingivitis)
- Inflammation of the mouth (stomatitis)
- Dental disease
- Skin redness or hair loss
- Wounds that don’t heal
- Discharge from eyes or nose
- Frequent urination, straining to urinate or urinating outside of litter
- Behavior change
How Is FIV Transmitted?
FIV is mainly passed from cat to cat through deep bite wounds,
the kind that usually occur outdoors during aggressive fights and territorial
disputes-the perfect reason to keep your cat inside.
Another, less common mode of transmission is from an FIV-infected mother cat to
her kitten. FIV does not seem to be commonly spread through sharing food bowls
and litter boxes, social grooming, sneezing and other casual modes of
Which Cats Are Most Prone to FIV?
Although any feline is susceptible, free-roaming, outdoor
intact male cats who fight most frequently contract the disease. Cats who live
indoors are the least likely to be infected.
Can a Person Catch FIV from a Cat?
No. FIV cannot be transmitted from cat to human, only from cat
What Should I Do If I Think My Cat Has FIV?
If you suspect your cat has FIV, have him examined and tested
by your veterinarian right away. During your visit, be ready to describe any
symptoms that you have detected, no matter how minute they seem. Also make sure
to keep your cat indoors, away from other felines who might possibly be
infected or whom he could infect, until you have a diagnosis.
How Is FIV Diagnosed?
FIV infection is routinely diagnosed by blood testing.
The FIV status of every cat should be known. The most common type of test
looks for the presence of antibodies to the virus in the blood. No test is
100-percent accurate all of the time, and your veterinarian will interpret the
test result and determine whether further testing is needed to confirm either a
positive or negative test result. Once a cat is determined to be FIV-positive,
that cat is capable of transmitting the disease to other cats.
Since it is possible for an infected mother cat to transfer FIV antibodies to
her kittens, these kittens may test positive from their mother’s antibodies
until they have cleared them from their systems, which happens by six months of
age. Therefore, kittens who test positive for FIV antibodies when they’re
younger than six months should undergo antibody tests again at a later date to
see if they are infected.