Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is a retrovirus infection that was first discovered in the US. FIV is sometimes compared to AIDS or HIV in humans, as they have a similar effect on cats. Much like AIDS, there is no definitive cure for FIV.
Thankfully, cats with FIV can still live long and happy lives! All they require is a few adjustments in their lifestyles and diets.
What is FIV?
FIV is one of the most common infectious diseases in cats around the world. Being an immunodeficiency virus, FIV attacks your cat’s immune system. This leaves them susceptible to other infections and illnesses.
Despite the fact that cats with FIV may appear normal for years, eventually they will suffer from infections from otherwise harmless bacteria, viruses or fungi. Symptoms of FIV include:
-Poor appetite and weight loss
-Diarrhoea and vomiting
-Eye or Dental diseases
-Poor Coat condition
There are 3 phases of infection with FIV - the acute phase, asymptomatic phase and progressive phase. In the acute phase, FIV can be very mild and often missed by owners. After this phase, your cat will undergo the asymptomatic phase.
In the asymptomatic phase, the virus will slowly replicate within your cat’s body. Infected cats may display signs of blood work abnormality.
However, the virus will eventually spread to your cat’s immune system. During this phase, your cat will begin to develop chronic or recurrent infections in the skin, eyes, urinary tract or upper respiratory tract.
How Do Cats Get FIV?
FIV is primarily transmitted from cat to cat through saliva. For the most part, they are transmitted via bite wounds or direct sustained contact with infected cats. Felines can also occasionally transmit FIV to their kittens.
Thankfully, casual non-aggressive contact like sharing food and water, or mutual grooming, does not cause the transmission of FIV.
FeLV vs FIV
Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) is another common disease that affects felines. It is sometimes confused with FIV because they share similar signs. However, in reality they can be quite different.
Feline Leukemia is much more transmissible, and can be transmitted even via light contact like grooming or sharing food bowls. In other words, with FeLV, it’s important to separate FeLV positive and FeLV negative cats. On the other hand, contact between FIV positive and FIV negative cats can occur without the transmission of FIV.
Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to be careful in multi-cat households. If you have a FIV positive cat, or a cat with an unknown FIV status, make sure to keep them indoors. In general, it appears that intact male cats are also less susceptible to FIV.
Note that not all multi-cat households are safe for FIV positive cats. For instance, cats that tend to be aggressive or fight a lot can easily transmit FIV. In these cases, it’s important to consider the overall welfare of all the cats you’re caring for.
What Do I Do If My Cat Has FIV?
Unfortunately, there is no definitive cure for FIV at the moment. However, with any luck, your cat can live a long life and never progress to more serious stages of FIV.
If your cat does have FIV, the main thing is to reduce their risk of acquiring other infections. You should also help them avoid spreading FIV to other cats. The best way to do so is to keep your cat indoors at all times and avoid contact with cats outside your household.
Spaying or neutering your cat will also help eliminate the risk of spreading FIV to their kittens or through mating.
Aside from managing your cat’s interactions with other felines, you should also help them maintain their immune system and diet. First and foremost, avoid feeding your cat uncooked food like raw meats or eggs. Unpasteurized dairy products should also be avoided at all costs.
Last but not least, keep your cat comfortable! Outside of boosting your cat’s immune system, it’s also important to help them live a long and happy life.
You can do that by providing your feline the best creature comforts any cat can ask for. In particular, give PetKit’s Memory Foam Pet Bed a try! These types of pet beds are easy to wash and can help you reduce the bacteria and viruses in your cat’s environment.
How to Prevent FIV
Even though FIV positive cats nowadays can easily live to their max lifespan, FIV is still no walk in the park. As much as possible, you should always try to help your cat avoid contracting FIV.
First, as mentioned before, make sure to spay or neuter your cat. This can greatly help prevent the spread of FIV to other cats. Spayed and neutered cats also have less mating instinct and are less likely to sneak out of your home!
It’s also a good idea to manage your cat’s interactions with others. As much as possible, you should try to keep your cat indoors and monitor when they make new feline friends. If you’re considering bringing a new cat home, always check them for FIV before adding them to your household.
It’s also important to note that FIV positive cats can live with FIV negative cats! Just make sure to prevent fights and limit their contact to some extent.
Thankfully, with new technology, there is now a vaccination for FIV. However, the vaccination itself is not 100% guaranteed to prevent FIV. This is because FIV vaccines are largely strain dependent, but the strain in Singapore is currently unknown.
Nevertheless, FIV vaccines may be helpful for cats that are often outdoors. In any case, it’s always a good idea to discuss your cat’s vaccination options with your local veterinarian. This will help you make a more informed decision regarding FIV vaccinations.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus can have a huge impact on your cat’s and your lifestyle. But living and coping with FIV has never been easier. With the right kind of care and concern, your cat can be just as happy and healthy as any other cat!
Tammi is an avid writer, but especially loves learning and writing about animals! She spends her free time visiting cat cafes, playing video games and having plenty of cuddle time with her pup.