The FIV Myth
I’m sure you-all have heard of FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) and that cats testing positive for this virus must be either put down or separated from other cats.
Well, that’s a myth. The fact is that FIV positive cats can live long, healthy and normal lives with no symptoms at all.
A new study in The Veterinary Journal written by Annette L. Litster of Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences presents Litster’s conclusions about mixed populations of positive and negative cats based on research of the cohabitation of cats living in separate rescues.
FIV is a cat-only disease which cannot be transferred to humans or other animals. It is a slow virus that affects the cat’s immune system over a period of years. The infected cat can fight off the infection and become totally immune, can become a carrier that never gets sick, or worst case, end up with a compromised immune system. Many positive cats die of old age or other problems long before the FIV virus causes a problem. They do, however, have a greater incidence of dental disease.
FIV is not easily passed between cats and it cannot be spread through sharing litter boxes, food and water bowls, or snuggling and playing. This disease is transferred when an infected cat bites another cat and breaks the other cat’s skin. The virus is carried in the saliva and must be introduced directly into the blood stream of the bitten cat. This means that a neutered cat in a home is highly unlikely to infect any other cats as long as they are properly introduced and are not particularly aggressive in nature. FIV is much more difficultly transmitted than people are led to believe, and there is often confusion between FIV and FeLV. FIV-positive cats require no special medication or additional care beyond the diligence you would use in caring for any cat.
Although an FIV positive mom often gives birth to infected kittens, the kittens almost always convert to an FIV negative status.
When introducing an FIV positive cat into a home setting, you will need to carefully monitor behaviors and interactions just as you would in introducing any new cat into the home.
Many of our Whiskers adopters and volunteers have successfully integrated FIV-positive and FIV-negative cats into their homes with no negative impact on cats’ health. FIV need not and should not be a death sentence!