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Living With A Cat With FIV - Feline Immunodeficiency Virus
Living With A Cat Who Has FIV
This is the story of how I discovered my cat had FIV, and there will also be some information about it, and how to care for an FIV positive cat.
Hopefully, this article will dispel some of the misinformation about this disease, and help those people whose pets are also infected with this common but much misunderstood ailment.
Please, if you discover your cat is FIV positive, don't panic! Do some research, keep the cat inside or in a pen, and he or she can still live a happy and healthy life with you! It's not a death sentence.
Unless otherwise indicated, all images are my own. All rights reserved.
FIV - Some Facts
Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is species specific and CANNOT be passed on to humans. You will not get aids from your cat.
FIV is contracted by fighting, usually from a bite. It can also be caught through mating. FIV can be vaccinated against, but the best preventative is to have your cat spayed or neutered, and by keeping it inside, or in a secure pen.
Cats with FIV can live a normal lifespan, if a little care is taken with their health, such as regular flea and worming treatments. It is recommended that they see a vet at least twice a year for a checkup, and their annual innoculations should be kept up to date.
This site will give you some information about the vaccinations for FIV. Unfortunately, if an inoculated cat is tested for FIV, it will give a positive result, and this may result in the animal being euthanised if picked up by animal control, or councils.
I'm Just A Normal Cat!
This is Tia enjoying some outside time before we discovered she was FIV+, and she could come and go as she pleased through the cat-door.
Once she was diagnosed, she had to become an inside only cat, unless in a secure pen outside. Except that she couldn't mix with other cats, her life was really no different to most felines.
FIV cannot be passed on to humans, so it's quite safe to have an FIV positive cat in your home.
How FIV Was Discovered In My Cat
A couple of years ago, I noticed that my cat was off her food a little, but since the weather was warm, that wasn't unusual, so I didn't worry about it.
After going to the shops one morning, I saw that she was limping, and thought she'd been in a fight, so caught her to have a look. There was a terrible burst abcess on her right side, near the tail. It was huge, and how I hadn't noticed it is a mystery. Cats are good at hiding things though.
Anyway, off we went to the vet to see what could be done. Tia was in a lot of pain, and the vet decided to keep her overnight before operating the next day.
Apparently it was a really bad abcess, and the poor cat looked a real mess when I collected her. She had heaps of stitches, a shaven area on her leg, and was wearing an Elizabethan collar to stop her licking the wound. There were also two drainage tubes in the wound. She was not a happy cat!
The vet advised getting her tested for FIV once the wound was healed.
If your cat has FIV, you'll find a lot of helpful information here. It's not a death sentence.
Have you ever had a cat with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus?
An Even More Unhappy Cat
Tia was made even more unhappy a couple of days after her operation, as we were going away for the weekend and she had been booked into a cattery.
They have had experience with cats in the same situation as her, so it was no problem to get her in. She just had to put up with the imprisonment - unfortunately for her, she was to become an indoors cat, which was definitely not to her liking.
The cattery was probably a good place for her at the time, because she couldn't move around a lot in her cage anyway, so had plenty of rest and quiet, just what was needed to start the healing.
She was certainly glad to see us on our return, even though the collar had to stay on, and there was no way she could go outdoors.
Lots of information here, with questions and answers on many topics.
Still In The Collar
Getting Used To Being Inside
In the picture, Tia is sitting on the new scratching station I bought her to help her adjust to being inside. It's the only time she ever stayed on it - after that she wouldn't go near it, but she loved the box it came in!
We tried to give her as much to do inside as possible, so that she stayed active and happy. On one occasion, she was at the back door, on her hindlegs, beating and scratching on the door to get out. That didn't make us feel very good at all, and I'm sure she felt even worse, having had her freedom for the previous 8 or 9 years of her life.
Since we had an old chicken pen, complete with coop, that wasn't being used, we converted it to an outside cat run for her, so she could at least get some fresh air. Of course, she couldn't have the run of the garden as she used to, but something is better than nothing. She did hate being carried to and from the pen though! :-)
I Want To Go Outside And I Want It NOW !
Let Me Out!
The picture above shows Tia sitting at the back door, waiting for it to be opened. She loved her freedom, but it couldn't happen any more, for her own safety. It's too risky for her, as if she got into a fight, another infection could be fatal.
She never got over wanting to be let out into the garden to wander freely.
All The Stitches Are Out
Well, several visits to the vet later, all the stitches came out, and finally, the Elizabethan collar was removed, much to Tia's relief.
We'd previously been advised to have her tested for FIV, as it was known to be rife in our area. There are a series of three vaccinations available to help protect cats from FIV. The test results take about 10 - 15 minutes, so it can be done while you wait.
When we had the test done, she was, unfortunately, found to be positive for FIV.
Letting a cat with FIV outside is not a good idea, as they can spread the disease to other cats by fighting, and can also pick up infections which they are unable to fight off, due to the virus. She will have to adjust to living inside permanently, for the sake of her health.
As with HIV, FIV is passed on by the exchange of body fluids, and since cats fight, biting is one of the main ways it happens.
Still Getting Used To Being Inside All The Time
Shortly after her nasty abcess, we travelled overseas, so my cat had to go into a boarding cattery for about a month. I was hoping that during this time, she'd forget about going outside, but no such luck - she still tried to get out at every opportunity. She may look very placid in this photo, but go to the door, and she's there like a shot, trying to get outside.
Unfortunately, it was too wet and cold for her to go into her outside pen at the time, but later the weather improved again, and she could at least get some fresh air.
Sadly, a couple of years after this story was written, Tia developed full blown FIV, and had to be put to sleep. We still miss her - she was such a personality.