FIV Cat Rescue
FIV Cat Rescue
Educating | Advocating | Saving Lives
FIV Cat Rescue is an educational non-profit charity, located in California, devoted to saving the lives of cats who test positive for FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) antibodies. Most FIV+ cats, if they have homes, will live a normal lifespan. They simply die of age-related diseases.
30+ years after humans freaked over HIV and turned infected people into lepers, they are now passing the stigma onto FIV+ cats -- for exactly the same reasons -- fear of the unknown and lack of good information.
FIV Cat Rescue is working directly with FIV researchers to create programs to inform vets, shelters, rescues and the general public that a single test proves nothing. Testing FIV positive (FIV ) should not be a death sentence. With proper care -- the same care you give to Non-FIV cats -- cats labeled FIV+ can and do live long, healthy, happy lives.
I'll report the latest facts about FIV and what FIV Cat Rescue is doing to save these cats.
FIV does not affect a cat's lifespan or quality of life, and FIV cats can coexist with non-FIV cats without transmitting the virus.
Although we've taken in the FIV+ cats in the past to save them from immediate death, we do not operate a shelter. As a shelter, we could only save a few dozen cats. Through our educational out-reach program, we hope to save thousands. We also help rescuers find homes for FIV cats.
Logo: Yang, one of our rescued FIV cats
Copyright 2012-2016, Frankie Kangas
FIV Cat Rescue - How it Began
In 2006, my husband and I had been fostering cats and kittens for 6 years for the local Humane Society. Early that year, we fostered a litter of 4 bottle-feeders, whose mother had abandoned them. As was customary, when the kittens weighed 2 pounds, we took them in to be spayed/neutered.
A few hours later, we received a call that would change our lives. The shelter informed us that the kittens had tested positive for FIV antibodies, so they were euthanized. They were dead. Gone.
We were devastated.
We had heard of FIV, but did not really know what it was. Was it terminal? Was there a cure? How could such healthy, happy kittens have a disease so bad they had to be killed?
We began to vigorously research these issues ... only to find conflicting information. "Facts" were all over the map. Then it became obvious. The date was the data. On the internet, old, out-dated information coexists with later studies. And the latest research of all is not even there yet.
We learned that while it was at first believed that cats testing positive for FIV were doomed, later studies showed the opposite. Tragically, obsolete thinking (we call them myths) had killed "our" kittens.
Even worse, the myths lived on, even as cats around the world did not. The senseless killing had to stop! Thus began our journey into rescuing FIV+ cats and the beginning of FIV Cat Rescue. .
Photo: Copyright 2006-2016, Frankie Kangas
Dedicated to these 4 beautiful kittens - Our devastating introduction to FIVClick thumbnail to view full-size
What is FIV?
FIV is a diagnosis
FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) is a feline only, lentivirus which progresses very slowly, affecting a cat's immune system. Sometimes, FIV does not even affect a cat at all.
FIV is really no big deal. FIV is so slow to progress that most FIV cats die of old age. Most FIV cats live long, healthy, happy lives when given a home with good care -- the same kind of care you give to your other NON-FIV cats. And, you cannot get FIV from your cat.
FIV is NOT Feline AIDS. It is this untrue stereotype that justifies the barbaric "treatment". Rarely does a cat even reach this stage (some call it Stage 4).
A common myth is that a cat that tests positive for FIV will die young. In fact, most FIV+ cats, if they have homes, will live a normal lifespan. They simply die of age-related diseases.
Copyright 2010-2016, Frankie Kangas
Cats who have been vaccinated AGAINST FIV will test positive for FIV antibodies forever!
Our Ultimate Goal
Stop Routinely Killing FIV+ Cats
Our primary mission is to end the out-dated and unjustified killing of cats based of the presence of FIV antibodies.
#1: End the killing of FIV+ cats by educating everyone involved:
> Work with FIV researchers to create the latest FIV educational materials
> Educate vets on the latest research treatments
> Distribute research findings to shelters, so they can update their kill policies based on current research
> Create and maintain a public national US database of shelters, rescues and sanctuaries that accept FIV+ cats
> Provide rescuers and caregivers tools to save FIV+ cats
> Help folks trying to save single FIV+ cats
> Educate the general public about FIV facts.
#2: Provide long-term solutions so "saved" cats lead long, healthy, happy lives:
> Create a "Forever-Home Location System" of networked online resources
> Educate shelters on how to find good homes for these special cats with not-so-special needs
> Promote spay-and-neuter programs to stop over-population, spread of disease, and euthanasia.
#3: Provide dual support roles:
> Save the few: provide information and support for individual FIV+ cats in desperate situations, often certain death is days or hours away.
> Save the many: change the prevailing culture from Kill to Love for all those with a FIV+ diagnosis.
We are a voice for these cats and hope to ultimately save those whose only "defect" is antibodies to a virus, not the actual virus.
Photo: Copyright 2008, Frankie Kangas
6 Things you should know about FIV - What is FIV and how does it affect cats?
- Nursing kittens can carry the antibodies of an infected mother without being infected themselves. In fact, a kitten testing positive should be retested at 6 to 8 months of age.
- Cats who have been vaccinated AGAINST FIV will test positive FOR FIV antibodies forever!
- The vast majority of FIV+ cats do NOT develop AIDS.
- Cats with FIV can live long, healthy lives.
- Animal shelters routinely kill cats who test positive for FIV.
- Humans do not catch FIV; it is a cat-specific infection.
How Is FIV Transmitted?
And, How It Is NOT Transmitted
FIV is transmitted through blood transfusions or deep penetrating bite wounds.
Kittens can get it from an infected mother while in the womb or through ingestion of milk during nursing. HOWEVER, kittens rarely get FIV from their mothers. Many inherit their Mom's antibodies to FIV which go away by the time they are 6 months of age. All kittens that test positive for FIV need to be retested after 6 months of age.
The condition is most often seen in unneutered stray or feral males, since fighting is more common among these cats. FIV is not easily passed between cats. It cannot be spread casually - like in litter boxes, water and food bowls, or when snuggling and playing.
A neutered FIV+ cat in a home is extremely unlikely to infect other cats, when properly introduced as long as the cats are all non-aggressive.
Cornell University on FIV:
"The primary mode of transmission is through bite wounds. Casual, non-aggressive contact does not appear to be an efficient route of spreading FIV; as a result, cats in households with stable social structures where housemates do not fight are at little risk for acquiring FIV infections."
Photo: Copyright 2012-2016, Frankie Kangas
What is the test for FIV?
FIV Blood Tests
A simple blood test, done in most veterinary clinics or hospitals, called ELISA (Enzyme-lined immunosorbent assay) is used to diagnose FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus). The test only tests for antibodies not the actual virus. Due to many false positives, if a cat tests positive, it should be retested using a Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.
Kittens test positive because they inherit their mother's antibodies, which are usually gone from their systems by the time they are 6 months old. Therefore, kittens that test positive for FIV antiboides should be retested between the age of 6 and 8 months of age at which time the test will most likely come back negative.
NOTE: Cats who have been vaccinated against FIV will test positive for FIV antibodies. This leads to false readings all of their lives.
Photo: Copyright 2006-2016, Frankie Kangas
FIV is NOT a death sentence!
Most cats who test positive for FIV antibodies
live long, healthy and happy lives.
How to keep an FIV cat healthy
FIV infected cats have compromised immune systems and may be more susceptible to infections and may need to take medicine a little longer than non-FIV cats. As with ALL cats, they need to be neutered (to minimize or prevent fighting), kept indoors (to decrease exposure to other cars, feral cats, dogs, poisons, other outdoor dangers), fed a good diet with vitamin supplements (no raw foods), and have yearly check-ups.
All cats are high strung and prefer no stress in their environment. FIV-infected cats are no different. For ALL cats both preventative health and dental care are important. Administer prescribed medications and monitor your cat's general activity level, body weight, appetite and attitude.
As with all of your animals, IF they start hiding, acting different, not eating or drinking, not using the box or going outside the box, sneezing, or snuffling, then immediately take them to the vet. It's really that simple. FIV+ cats should be aggressively treated for any infections that may occur.
Vaccinations for other diseases should be discussed with your veterinarian.
Photo: Harley (with 1 amber eye and 1 yellow eye)
Copyright 2010-2016, Frankie Kangas
What should I feed my FIV+ cat?
Diet for an FIV cat
All cats should be fed good quality food, whether wet or dry. We prefer a combination, as an all-dry food diet can produce skin problems in a few cats and it can lead to urinary tract problems in males because of the ash.
FIV cats should never be fed raw meat, which carries a risk of Toxoplasma gondii infection. This can be a serious problem in FIV cats, simply because their immune systems might be weaker than normal. FIV cats are not particularly fragile; we are simply being proactively protective.
For that reason, if your cat goes outside -- which is not recommended, except for safely enclosed areas -- you should prevent it from hunting.
While not exactly foods, we do add 2 ingredients to the wet food of all cats:
On our Vet's recommendation, we add L-Lysine HCI (Lysine)* daily to their wet food. Lysine, an essential amino acid, is recommended for Herpes and to prevent and combat Upper Respiratory Infection (URI), known in humans as a common cold. We give each cat 250mg a day as a maintenance dose. If they have cold symptoms, we up their dose to 500mg a day for up to a week, then back down to the maintenance dose. We prefer the Lysine crystals to the other forms it comes in. We simply put the Lysine crystals on top of the wet food, add a little water and stir. The crystals melt immediately and the cats don't seem to notice any taste.
* We buy a product called, Pure Lysine, in a 4-lb tub online from Vita Flex Nutrition (Vitaflex.com). It is advertised for horses due to the size of the tub and is the least expensive product we've found. And, for 16 cats, it is necessary to buy in bulk.
NOTE: Lysine has no special properties in relation to FIV "specifically" as far as boosting the immune system, but is recommended for Herpes and for URI prevention in all cats. L-Carnitine is actually more useful as a maintenance supplement for being pro-actively protective as is Lactoferrin.
We also add 100% pureed pumpkin (not pie filling) to their wet food. Pumpkin is a good source of fiber and is helpful in several ways:
1. for diarrhea, the pumpkin fiber absorbs the water in a cat's digestive system making their stools firmer.
2. for constipation, the fiber in the pumpkin helps by softening the stools.
3. The fiber also reduces hairballs.
For cats weighing up to 15 pounds, we give 1-2 TEAspoons a day of pumpkin puree. For cats over 15 pounds, we give 1-2 TABLEspoons.
NOTE 1: Some cats do not do well on pumpkin so experiment with amount to see what works for each cat.
NOTE 2: In place of pumpkin, you can use unflavored 100% natural Psyllium husk fiber mixed into their food with a little water. The Psyllium has the same effect as pumpkin. (The brand we use is Equate and comes in a 29 oz container.) Some cats are allergic to fiber and may throw up their food.
Isolation of an FIV+ cat is not necessary in a stable household unless the FIV+ cat is likely to fight with the other residents.
FIV Cats live with Non-FIV Cats
FIV Cats can live with non-aggressive non-FIV cats
Since 2006, I've had FIV+ cats and non-FIV cats living together in my home -- anywhere from 13 to 18 cats at a time. They lick each other, eat out of each others food bows, drink from the same water bowls and play and sleep together; the disease has NOT been transmitted to any of my non-FIV cat. Also, I have many older cats (7 over 12 years old -- 2 with FIV and 5 without). None of the FIV+ cats have turned into AIDS and none of the non-FIV cats have been infected. So far, all of our FIV cats have lived to be at least 14-yrs old and have died of old age diseases.
30 years after humans got freaked about HIV and turned people into lepers, they are now passing the stigma onto FIV cats -- all for the same reason -- fear of the unknown and lack of good information. We are working very hard to get a grant to tell vets, shelters, rescues and the general public that having FIV should not be a death sentence. That cats that tests positive for FIV antibodies can live long, healthy, happy lives. And they are living in many, many homes.
Cats do not have to die simply for a compromised immune system, which is what FIV is.
LONG TERM RESEARCH STUDY: FIV living together with Non-FIV cats:
People shouldn’t be afraid of having FIV and Non-FIV cats living together. The virus is passed through a serious, penetrating bite wound (these are extremely rare, except in free-roaming, unneutered tomcats).
The latest, long-term research study (2014 submission) shows that FIV and Non-FIV cats can live together without spreading the virus as long as all are non-aggressive. Research at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1090023314000847
A good article written about the study is “As It Turns Out, FIV Positive and Negative Cats Can Happily Live Together” http://www.care2.com/causes/as-it-turns-out-fiv-positive-and-negative-cats-can-happily-live-together.html
Photo: Mad Max
Photo: Copyright 2010-2016, Frankie Kangas
Keep Your FIV Cat Healthy
Keep your FIV+ cat healthy by treating her like ALL cats should be treated. 2 things that we stress are: NO raw foods, keep indoor only (all our cats are), and if she seems sick have her treated right away.
Help Us Stop MYTHinformation The Killer of FIV Cats
Please Pledge to Support Our Efforts
We are committed to changing the way FIV+ cats are diagnosed, perceived and treated in this nation and worldwide. We believe that lack of education is the cause of the problem -- and a spread of knowledge will be the solution. No one is willingly doing wrong. There are no evil people here. They simply haven't received the latest medical facts. That is our job, and we have our work cut out for us! Everyday untold numbers of FIV+ cats are mistakenly surrendered to shelters out of fear.
It IS slowly getting better for FIV+ cats, but not fast enough to save the thousands that already died this year, and those whose lives will be in jeopardy in years to come. They need unrelenting advocates to stand up for them. We are committed to doing that, but we can't do it alone. We are stepping up our efforts and hope to gain much ground in 2013. We are asking our FANS and FRIENDS to get in step with our efforts by PLEDGING your support with a monthly subscription. You can help us reach our goals for just pennies a day!
Thank you for caring about these very special cats as much as we do. We hope you will share our message with your FRIENDS. Together, we can raise our voices and stand up for the defenseless!
FIV Cat Rescue
Wear a t-shirt and spread the word about FIV cats - they don't have to die!
Every penny goes to save FIV cats. Thank you!
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Don't Forget To Spay Or Neuter Your Cat
Neutered Cats Are Healthier And Happier
Having your cat spayed or neutered will stop the overpopulation and the killing of cats. Millions of cats are killed at shelters each year due to overpopulation. Keep in mind, if your cat has 4 kittens, even if you get homes for those kittens, 4 others are killed because they could not get homes.
ASPCA's Low-Cost Spay/ Neuter Resource
Info on low cost spay/ neuter resource
Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Programs
ASPCA has a special link for you to find low-cost spay/neuter programs in your community. Simply go to Low-Cost Spay Neuter Programs and enter in your zip code and you'll get a list of the programs in your area.
Photo: Copyright 2010-2016, Frankie Kangas SnoBall FIV Cat Rescue Mascot
Looking For A Home For An FIV+ Cat?
Here's How to Find a Home For an FIV+ Cat
If you have rescued an FIV cat and cannot keep it, there are a couple of things you can do.
1) Find a home yourself -- run a newspaper ad with a fun story and photos of the cat, put up flyers, post to your Facebook account, send out emails.
2) Call your local shelters and rescues to see if they will find a home for an FIV cat. See
Rescues Taking FIV Cats for a listing by state of groups that take FIV cats.
Do you still have questions about FIV? If so, post them here and I'll get that informaiton for you from the researcher I'm working with or my Vet.
ADOPTED 2013: James "Jimmy" Bond
FIV Cat Rescue's Wish List
Below are a few of the items on our wish list to help the FIV cats. Above in the donation module, you can donate any amount of money. Here, you can purchase one of these items through Amazon.com and have it shipped directly to FIV Cat Rescue at 19680 Noyo Acres Drive, Fort Bragg CA 95437. Thank you!
Another way we introduce people to our cats up for adoption is to have a strolling even around town. They keep our cats contained and entertained. We also get lots of exercise ourselves. We need at least 2 of these as we borrow from other organizations when we can.
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