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Can Cats Get AIDS? Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. Cats and FIV!

Updated on July 14, 2017

Please Don't Let Me Get FIV


Your Cat Has WHAT?

A friend of mine told me her cat had AIDS. I was surprised to say the least! Could cats really have this disease? Could they give it to humans? Then, being a cat owner, I started to worry about my own cats. Were they infected? What about my kids, could they get it by being scratched by a cat?

In answer to my question about transmission, my friend assured me that humans could not get infected from cats with "Cat AIDS" (or what is commonly referred to as FIV). She told me that she and her husband kept their cat indoors and cared for it so that it would live longer. Again, I was surprised. I had no idea that there was such a widespread disease among cats, or that it was specific only to cats. I would have thought that a cat with such a disease would inevitably have to be put down. But this was not the case at all.

I needed to know more about FIV and what it could mean for my cats. The following article is what I learned.

Get Your Cat Checked


What Is FIV and Why Should I Be Concerned?

So, what is FIV? FIV stands for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. It is estimated that in the U.S. approximately 3 to 4 percent of healthy looking cats have contracted the FIV virus. FIV is a virus which progresses slowly over a period of years. Some people confuse FIV with FeLV which is the Feline Leukemia Virus, however they are two distinct diseases. A cat with FIV may not even show symptoms of the disease for years after its initial infection and may appear normal and healthy during this time. However, the virus severely weakens a cat's immune system causing an immune deficiency. Because of this, infected cats are more susceptible to other diseases as well such as cancer, blood diseases, infections, and more. Uncared for, an infected cat will live a much shorter and less healthy life. With proper care a cat can live for years before reaching chronic stages.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is transmitted mainly through deep bite wounds from aggressive fights, from the saliva of one cat to the blood of another, or from the blood of one cat to the blood of another. Also, though not as common, the virus may be transmitted from a mother cat to its kittens through gestation, birthing, or nursing. Outdoor male cats who fight a lot are most susceptible to infection, while indoor cats are not as likely to get FIV.

FIV is a species specific disease. According to Cornell University, there is no evidence that people can be infected with FIV. Cats can only infect other cats, not humans. You cannot get FIV from being scratched or bitten by your cat.

Outdoor Male Cat and a Fighter!


FIV - Feline Immunodeficiency Virus

What Are The Signs of FIV?

If such a small percentage of cats are affected, why should you test your cat for FIV? An early detection of Feline Immunodeficiency Virus can help you extend the life and the comfort of your cat. Many cats with FIV look like normal, healthy cats. Your cat could have FIV and you may not even know it until some of the more severe symptoms set in. The largest threat to cats with FIV are the secondary infections that their immune systems may not be able to fight off. Things that don't normally harm healthy cats, such as bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms, can harm an FIV cat. Testing can also help to keep from spreading the disease to other cats by not letting an infected cat mingle with uninfected cats.

Signs and symptoms, which may not even appear for years in some cases, include:

Enlarged lymph nodes, fever, anemia, weight loss (which can become severe late in the disease), a poor appetite, eye problems such as inflammation of or discharge from the eyes, discharge from the nose, ear canal infections, inflammation of the gums, inflammation of the mouth, dental disease, a disheveled or poor coat, skin redness or hair loss, infections of the skin, wounds that don't heal, recurring illnesses, progressively deteriorating health, sneezing, upper respiratory tract infections, diarrhea, bladder or urinary tract infections, frequent urination, straining to urinate, urinating outside of the litter box, behavioral changes, a loss of kittens during pregnancy, even seizures and kidney failure. As you can see, this is a very serious condition.

If you think your cat has Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, keep it indoors away from other cats that could get infected. Take it to your vet as soon as possible for diagnosis. Be sure to tell all of your cat's symptoms, even the small ones.

Having FIV does not mean that your cat's life is over. Cats with FIV can live happy, almost normal lives for many years.

If your cat is diagnosed with FIV, your veterinarian will prescribe treatment and management care of your cat in order to extend its life and in order to attempt to delay further symptoms and complications from FIV.

What is FIV?

What Treatment Is Available?

The best treatment includes a stress free indoor environment and a healthy diet.

Some of the many things you can do for your FIV cat are: Keep it indoors where it will be less likely to catch other diseases or sicknesses which neighboring cats may carry. Feed your cat a healthy, balanced diet, with no raw food, to protect it from parasites, bacteria, and microorganisms. Spay or neuter your cat. Bring your cat to the vet for a checkup every 6 months. Alert your vet to any changes you have noticed in your cat's health. Give prompt medical care or treatment for any infections or other conditions that arise. Administer flea control, since fleas transmit parasites. Also, minimizing stress keeps your cat's immune system from being needlessly worn down.

Cute Cuddly Kitten


How Can I Prevent My Cat From Getting FIV?

The best way to keep your cat from getting FIV in the first place, is to keep your cat indoors and away from other cats which may be infected. Do not allow your cat to roam or fight with strays. If your cat will be staying in a kennel, make sure the other cats are not infected, or that your cat will be kept away from the other cats.

There are some vaccines available that may help prevent infection with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, but these vaccines have not been highly recommended and may cause a false positive in testing for FIV after the cat has been inoculated.

FIV the virus of cats

How Is Your Cat's Health?

So now you know what FIV, or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, is and what you can do to prevent it or care for an infected cat. So how is your cat's health? Do you let your cat roam free outdoors? If so, you may consider moving it inside. Have you had your cat tested for FIV? If not, it may be time for you to schedule a trip to the vet. With what you now know, you can help ensure that your cat lives safely and comfortably for as long as possible even if infected with FIV. Remember, owning a pet is a responsibility.

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    • Eric Calderwood profile image

      Eric Calderwood 3 years ago from USA

      Thank you, Jemuelo, it was a shock to me as well to find out that cats can get this disease.

    • jemuelO profile image

      Jemuel 4 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      This is really informative. I never thought cats can have a disease just like the AIDS in human. I love cats... and I just can't afford them to catch that FIV virus. I'm now extra careful with my cats, I will never let them out and fight with other stray cats. Prevention is always better than cure.

      Thank you so much for making this hub. Just voted up and followed you.