What is it?

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, commonly known as ‘FIV’ is a viral infection that causes a weakened immune system among cats. It is not zoonotic, meaning it cannot transfer from animal to human, however it can be passed on from cat to cat through direct contact, such as scratches, bites and bodily fluid, but is not passed around in the environment. If you suspect your cat may have FIV, have them tested at the vets via a blood sample. For the health and wellbeing of your cat as well as the safety of others, it is best to have your cat tested every few months if they are free-roamers.

 

Who does it affect?

Any cat can be infected but the commonly affected are strays, ferals and unneutered males, as they often fight for territory, food, females, and resources. As a result of this, they are also responsible for spreading the infection at a much higher rate. Controlling the spread of FIV is another pressing reason why owners should make the responsible decision to neuter their feline friends. Even affected Queens (mothers) can potentially pass the infection through to their litter through the birthing canal or by drinking infected milk. These kittens may not display symptoms until 4-6 months of age.

Are there any symptoms?

Once contracted, FIV will attack the immune system of the host but in most cases, the affected cat may not show signs at all. Symptoms can be mild and often hard to notice, as the cat will usually still present itself normally. Therefore, if you notice any general unwellness it is best to have them health checked by a vet as the health of their immune system will begin to decline.

Is there a cure?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for FIV, nor is there a vaccine to protect against it. Infected cats can still live lengthy and happy lives, provided other annual boosters are kept up-to-date, as an affected individual’s weakened immune-system can put them at risk of other disease and illness.

Protecting against FIV

The best way you can protect your cat against FIV is to neuter. Fights are far less likely to occur between neutered (therefore less aggressive and territorial) cats. Secondly, microchipping; if your cat roams around different areas and new territories, they are likely to encounter unfamiliar new cats that may challenge them.

My cat has FIV

If your cat has tested positive for FIV (FIV+), consider getting them neutered as soon as you can if they are not already. An unneutered FIV+ cat is more likely to pass on the virus. By neutering them, you can help control the spread and protect other cats.

 

If the affected individual is from a multi-cat household, always have the other cats tested as they could potentially have it too.

FIV+ cats should thereafter be kept indoors to ensure there is no possible way of spreading the infection, whether they are the ‘victim’ or not. It was also help protect their weakened immune system against other infections too.

Owners must carefully consider whether their previous free-roaming cat will cope with an indoor lifestyle and be prepared to enrich their lives substantially in substitution for having access to the outside world again.

 

For general care, maintain regular check-ups with your vet, feed them a healthy, balanced diet, respond immediately to any sign of unwellness as they can deteriorate faster and keep on top of vaccinations and flea and worm treatment.

Useful Links

https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/cats/health/fiv

https://www.cats.org.uk/oxford/feature-pages/fiv-feline-immunodeficiency-virus

https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/feline-immunodeficiency-virus

https://www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-advice/fiv-cats