The feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), commonly referred to as “feline AIDS” is a virus that weakens a cat’s immune system and makes it difficult for them to fight off illnesses. This virus has serious side effects and a scary name, but many cats with FIV still live long lives, especially if they receive proper care.
In the event that you’ve never heard of FIV, we wanted to share some information on what FIV is and how to prevent (or treat) it in order to help you enjoy a long, happy life with your cat.
The symptoms of this virus are extremely varied and may not occur for many years after a cat has been infected, if at all. Some of the symptoms a cat with FIV may exhibit include:
- A poor appetite and extreme weight loss
- Chronic kidney problems
- Recurring upper respiratory problems
- Minor illnesses that frequently recur or never go away
- Inflammation of the mouth, gums, or nose
- Chronic ear infections
- Certain strains of cancer
Because many cats never show symptoms, it’s important to test a new cat for FIV before bringing him home. This is especially important if you have other cats at home.
Your veterinarian will run a series of blood and urine tests to determine whether your cat is an FIV carrier. It can take a number of weeks after infection for a cat to test positive for FIV. With this in mind, your vet may recommend re-testing your cat 60 or 90 days after the initial test just to be sure of the diagnosis.
If your cat tests negative for FIV you may wish to consider vaccinating him to prevent him from contracting it. Unfortunately, the FIV vaccine is not 100% effective in protecting cats from the virus but it is still worth discussing the option with your veterinarian.
The only way to completely ensure your cat does not contract the virus is to limit his contact with other felines that may be infected. Keeping your cat indoors is the best way to do this.
If your cat happens to test positive for the feline immunodeficiency virus, he can still live a full life. There is currently no cure for FIV, but many infected cats still live out a full life expectancy. You can help lengthen your cat’s life by providing him with attentive care.
Caring for a cat with FIV will look different depending on whether or not your cat is already exhibiting symptoms of the virus. The most important consideration to make is that your cat’s immune system is compromised. This means you should take care to protect him from contracting any illnesses, as recovering can be a lengthy, challenging process. Generally speaking, keeping your FIV-positive cat indoors will help him to avoid contracting illnesses or becoming injured.
It is also very important to keep your cat’s vaccines up to date to ensure that he does not contract any secondary diseases or infections. Since his immune system lacks proper defenses, fighting an illness may cause his overall condition to deteriorate more rapidly than it would otherwise.
Your veterinarian will advise you as to whether there are additional measures that need to be taken. In some instances, your cat may require a special diet. If your cat is already experiencing complications from FIV (such as infections or respiratory problems) your vet will be able to help you find the appropriate treatments for those conditions.
Is FIV contagious?
Feline immunodeficiency virus is contagious to other cats, but not to humans or other animals. It is mainly transmitted through bites and scratches but it may also pass from mother cat to kitten during birth. For this reason, it is recommended that any cat with FIV is sterilized to prevent further transmission of the disease in this manner.
The life expectancy of cats with FIV varies depending on a variety of factors. Cats that live indoors in a stable home are most likely to live out a full life expectancy because their environment is controlled and less-stressful than living outdoors.
A feral cat that lives on the street likely won’t live as long with FIV as he will be more prone to infection, injury, and disease.
It’s okay for an FIV positive cat to live with other cats, as it isn’t particularly easy for the virus to be transferred. That said, it’s important to take care to ensure the cats do not fight, as the disease is contracted through bites and scratches.
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