Last updated: 14 Nov, 2023
Published on: 1 Jun, 2016
Caring for cats with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus - FIV
Caring for Cats with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus
FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) is known to be carried by approximately 19.5% of cats in Australia, but it’s really not as serious as it sounds. It’s less severe than HIV in humans. It’s definitely not transmissible to people. And new research suggests it is far less transmissible between cats than previously thought.
The virus affects the immune system, leaving cats vulnerable to infections and disease. If they get injured or ill, they may take longer to recover than most cats and could need a little extra TLC. But they generally don’t require ongoing medication or much additional care.
An FIV cat that’s kept indoors (or with access to a secure outdoor cat run), fed a nutritionally balanced feline-specific diet and taken to the vet at least twice a year for health check-ups, may enjoy a normal life span of over 15 years!
Facts about FIV
- FIV is not transmissible to humans. Or other species for that matter (so the dog is safe!).
- FIV is spread mainly through deep bite wounds while fighting with other cats (a light nip or a surface scratch won’t transmit the disease). It can also be transmitted by a mother cat to her kittens across the placenta or through her milk.
- Pets in the same household cannot transmit the disease to each other, except by mating or by deep bite wounds (both of which are highly unlikely amongst desexed cats, even amongst cats that don’t get along well). So grooming and sharing food is not a problem.
- FIV-positive and FIV-negative cats can live together safely if they are a bonded pair, as they are extremely unlikely to fight to the degree required to transmit the disease.
- Outdoor cats are at the highest risk of disease, especially if they fight with other cats. So desexing is super important in stopping the spread of FIV, as desexed cats don’t tend to roam and fight.
- Like humans, cats can also carry FIV without having AIDS.
- Cats with FIV can live long, healthy and happy lives. This means they can most certainly shower you with snuggles and enrich your life with adorable antics.
How to protect your cat from FIV
- Talk to your vet about vaccinating your cat against FIV.
- Keep your cat indoors or in a cat enclosure to limit their exposure to other cats.
- Desex your cat, to decrease the chance of them roaming and fighting with other cats.
- When introducing a new cat to your existing cat, test the new cat for FIV first.
How do you know if your cat has FIV?
Most owners don’t know their cat is carrying the disease. The symptoms of contracting FIV are very mild, and once the cat’s immune system recovers there are no symptoms.
Owners generally become aware that their cat is a carrier when they get sick. Cats with FIV take longer to recover from illnesses such as cat flu or an abscess. If you are an owner of a cat with FIV, you’ll just need to follow a few simple care tips
Caring for an FIV-positive cat
- It is strongly recommended that FIV-positive cats spend their life indoors to protect other cats from the risk of transmission, but also to protect them from the risk of infection or other diseases which might compromise their immune system.
- Feed your cat a good quality diet, and steer clear of raw meat, raw eggs and unpasteurised milk.
- Just like any cat, regular parasite control is important (for intestinal worms, fleas, ticks and heartworm).
- Ensure your cat’s vaccinations are kept up to date.
- Twice-yearly veterinary health checks are recommended, and quick action is required should your cat seem unwell, so that your vet can get on top of it ASAP.
There are thousands of loving cats available for adoption right now. Cats that are so deserving of a family to call their very own. And some of these cats just happen to be FIV-positive.
Why not consider opening your heart and your home to an FIV-positive cat? It’s all the more rewarding, knowing that you have given a very special rescue cat what all homeless pets dream of - a cosy home to call their own and a love that will last a lifetime.