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FIV In Cats: Feline Immunodeficiency Virus - My Experience

Updated on July 17, 2013

FIV in Cats in my Community

Can you tell by looking if this male stray from trailer park has FIV? No.
Can you tell by looking if this male stray from trailer park has FIV? No. | Source

My Introduction to FIV in cats

I was aware of FIV from the inception of the rescue. It was something we were always supposed to test for in cats and kittens. Early on a mistake was made and a beautiful male was not tested. He was an older male with that huge head. He had not been neutered so he had a vet visit and I still don't know how the testing was missed. A wonderful loving couple adopted him and enjoyed him for 3 years when he suddenly became sick and had to be put down. It was cat FIV.

Transmission of FIV in Cats

FIV in cats is blood borne so a cat has to have a fight/bite from an infected cat to contract it. It is no wonder an outdoor un-neutered Tomcat would get it. We found the disease over and over with cats rescued from certain areas where there were a lot of un-neutered, un-spayed strays and outdoor pet cats. In other words it spread rapidly and was pervasive in areas with free roaming cats. One area was a cottage community. My tenant asked me and the rescue to take a mother cat and her kittens he had been feeding but who were strays. He wanted us to have them neutered and returned. Before the surgery, they tested and mother and all kittens had cat FIV and were put down as per the rescue and Humane Society's protocol at that time. Unfortunately, mother cats can pass the virus to their unborn kittens. This is the only way it can be transmitted outside of a cat fight. I don't think my tenant ever forgave me but that was the harsh reality of that neighborhood. Every time we rescued a stray from that cottage community, they had Feline immunodeficiency Virus. There was also a trailer park, where there were many outdoor cats and strays in a really dense area. Cat FIV was pervasive there also. According to the Winn Feline Foundation, 70% of cats who live outdoors or go outdoors now in 2013 have cat FIV.

Testing for FIV in cats

Did this kitten contract FIV from its mother? There is no way to know without a blood test.
Did this kitten contract FIV from its mother? There is no way to know without a blood test. | Source

FIV in Cats and Reduced Immunity

Because FIV in cats slowly and progressively represses the immune system in the animal, the cat will be more susceptible to opportunistic infections. The first sign of that a cat has FIV virus can be fever, anemia or diarrhea. As its immunity is reduced, an FIV cat can be more likely to get pneumonia, diarrhea, skin conditions, sinus infections and eye problems than a healthy cat. But by keeping you cat isolated from other cats and indoors and by continuing good vet care, a cat with FIV is more likely to live a healthy long life. In addition, high quality food and an immune system booster like L-lysine can help.

Not Knowing if Kittens have FIV Cat

This kitten will be neutered in a week. Does it have FIV?
This kitten will be neutered in a week. Does it have FIV? | Source

FIV in Cats and Life Span

The disease was only first discovered in Canada in 1986 according to the Winn Feline Foundation. So even moving into this century we knew little about the disease. It is related to HIV in humans but cannot be transmitted to any human or any other type of animal. Just like with human Aids when first discovered, there was nothing we knew to do. Over the years with FIV in cats, verterinary science learned that lives could be prolonged in cats with the virus. There is no way that the cat is never infectious and a danger to other cats nor is there a practical vaccine to protect other cats [scientist are trying to develop one]. However, a single household indoor cat with Feline Immunodeficiency can live a long and quality life.

Ongoing Deadly Disease

Will this kitten test positive for FIV in cats?
Will this kitten test positive for FIV in cats? | Source

Sanctuary: Feline Leukemia

There are more and more sanctuaries where cats with Feline Leukemia can live out their usually short lives with good care. A good example is Purrfect Pals Arlington, WA.


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    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 4 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      How sad that this illness has become part of the "free living" cats. Living in the country I always have a long line-up of strays that show up or are possibly dropped off by people who are tired of being kitty parents. Unfortunately there is no-way to neuter all the barn cats that show up. Last winter I was feeding a couple of dozen strays... ( I'm not really a crazy cat-lady, just can't stand to see any animal go hungry ) In spring, summer and fall the number usually goes down. (unless some "townee" drops off a pregnant mommy cat) Any suggestions how to keep the brood healthy?

      great but sad hub, voted up and useful

      regards Zsuzsy