There is no evidence available that
cats can transmit FIV to any other species. Also, the retrovirus
is fragile and can be easily killed/inactivated by ultraviolet
light, heat, detergents and drying.
Unlike Feline Leukemia, FIV is not transmitted simply through
close contact. FIV is instead shed in the saliva and is
transmitted when a cat bites another cat or through another
exchange of bodily fluids. Naturally, outdoor or free-roaming
cats are much more susceptible to infection! Because there is no
FIV vaccine available, the best way to keep a cat from getting
FIV is to keep him indoors and away from infected cats.
What does FIV do?
- Four to six weeks after infection cats may experience fevers,
swollen lymph nodes and may have a greater susceptibility to skin
or intestinal infections.
- Cats in the second stage show no signs of disease, all this
while the immune system is slowly be destroyed. This stage can
last for many years. It is only when the immunodeficiency becomes
severe, that the third stage of infection begins.
- In the third stage, kitty's immune system stops
functioning properly, since FIV kills essential cells. This makes
cats more susceptible to bacterial, fungal or parasitic
infections that kitty would otherwise fight off without problem.
Examples of this include mange and ear
mites. Other problems include upper respiratory tract
infections, oral infections/sores, intestinal infections, and
skin/ear diseases as well as cancers, anemia, cow pox infection,
renal disease, uveitis and other eye diseases, neurological disorders and neoplasia.
Cats in the third stage have a life expectancy of 1 year or
How do you treat an FIV-infected kitty?
- Avoid stressing kitty.
- Provide kitty with love and care, give him plenty of fluids
and good nutrition.
- Keep an infected kitty indoors so as to protect them, as well
as to protect other cats.
- Keep infected kitties segregated from other cats in the
- Have your vet treat the symptoms of whatever diseases,
infections or other health problems develop as a result of the
When should you test for FIV?
The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) and the
Academy of Feline Medicine have developed guidelines for FIV
testing. Basically, you should test your cat if:
- You are bringing in a cat or kitten to a household with other
cats, and you do not know if he has been previously tested.
- Kitty is showing recurring illness and an inability to fight
- Cats in the final stage of FIV disease may test negative for
FIV because their immune systems have been destroyed such that
they cannot produce FIV antibodies.
- Your cat is an outdoor cat,
escapes, is bitten by another cat or is exposed to cats whose
status you cannot determine.
- Test outdoor cats at least once a year.
- Cats over 6 months of age who test negative but are suspected
of having been infected should be retested 120 days after
I hope this has been helpful. Remember that FIV-infected cats,
unlike FeLV-infected cats can live for many years before they
develop symptoms. I hope your kitty is ok and that you and your
family continue to enjoy and love him. Simba
HANDLING AN FIV Infected Cat
My 7 year-old male cat has been diagnosed with FIV. He was a
stray we have had now for about 3 years. He roams in and outside
as he pleases. We also have 4 other cats. They are all de-clawed
and do not go outside. What are the risks of this and how do we
protect the other 4 cats? Wanda
The first thing you might want to do is have your kitty
re-tested. FIV is tricky, in that many times tests for it show
Because FIV is transmitted through cat to cat exchanges of bodily
fluids, you should keep your indoor cats away from the FIV kitty.
This is especially important given that there are no vaccines for
Your indoor/outdoor can live for a couple of years, even if he
re-test positive, so do not rush off and have him put to sleep.
Continue to care for him and love him as you do. You might also
want to consider limiting his roaming area so as to keep him from
infecting other cats. Keep me posted. Simba