Every cat owner dreads being told that their cat has tested positive for FIV. It can be a devastating experience. Cat shelters too, are full of FIV+ cats, who are avoided by prospective cat owners. But really, it needn’t be so. FIV+ cats can live long, healthy and happy lives, given the right love, care and attention from their human families.
So, what is FIV?
FIV is a lentivirus just like HIV in humans. It’s often referred to as “cat AIDS”. The FIV virus reduces the white blood cell count in cats, which leaves their body more susceptible to infection and illnesses. There is no cure for FIV and it is currently always fatal. However, by taking proper care of an infected cat, it is very likely that they will go on to live a fulfilling life with minimal health problems for years.
How can I protect my cat against FIV?
Vaccinating your cat can help protect them against FIV infection. Although vaccinations can confuse current FIV test results, with cats that have received the vaccine testing positive, it is always advisable to get your cat vaccinated. Neutering can also reduce the number of conflicts your cat engages in. As a result, this reduces their chance of becoming infected through a bite. The only sure way to protect your cat would be to keep them indoors and away from infected cats.
Transmission of FIV
The FIV virus is mainly transmitted through deep bite wounds – which leads to the saliva of the FIV+ cat entering the bloodstream of another cat. On very rare occasions, a mother can pass on the virus to her kittens in utero. The FIV virus is very vulnerable when outside of a cat's body. Because of this, it is unlikely to spread infection through cats sharing food bowls, toys or bedding. It cannot be passed on to humans.
How will FIV affect my cat?
It is often difficult to predict exactly how FIV will affect your cat. Cats with FIV may remain in the asymptomatic phase and not show any symptoms for years after the initial infection has happened. FIV maybe slow acting, but a cat’s immune system is severely weakened once the disease takes hold. This can make the cat prone to a number of secondary infections. Cats can live comfortable and healthy lives for years before the disease progresses into the final stages of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (FAIDS). In general, the earlier FIV is diagnosed, the better your cat’s prognosis will be.
How to take care of an FIV+ Cat?
A healthy, nutritious diet is absolutely essential. Be sure to feed your cat with quality food. Cat vitamins can be bought to supplement diet and help boost immunity. Keep your cat parasite free by treating them for common internal and external parasites. To help prevent the spread of FIV in your local community, your cat will need to be kept indoors. You will need to create an enriching environment in your home to keep your cat stimulated and stress-free. Climbing frames, scratch posts, beds in high and low places and an adequate amount of litter trays. Diffusers that emit feline pheromones can be purchased to help keep your cat calm. An array of toys can keep your cat physically active and mentally stimulated. It’s very important to take your cat for regular check ups with a vet. It is recommended that FIV+ cats still receive booster vaccinations although Inactivated (rather modified live) vaccines should be used. Secondary infections can often be treated effectively. If your cat shows any signs of illness or disease, it is important to take them to the vet immediately.
Yes, there is currently no cure for FIV. However, by providing your cat with love, care and diligent health management, your FIV+ cat can live a long and joyful life.