What is FIV?

  • Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is a virus that affects the immune system, leaving cats vulnerable to infections and disease
  • It is spread by deep bite wounds while fighting with other cats (reproduction is not a significant form of transmission for FIV)
  • If an FIV+ cat gets injured or ill, they may take longer to recover than most cats and could need a little extra TLC.
  • Cats with FIV are at high risk for being euthanized, but they don’t have to be!
  • It is a manageable condition – cats with FIV can live full and happy lives

Have you heard the term cat AIDS?

  • Sometimes FIV is compared to AIDS (caused by the human immunodeficiency virus) in humans.
  • Correct in that AIDS and FIV are both viruses that compromise the immune system that leaves their host (humans and cats) more susceptible to other illnesses or diseases.
  • Incorrect in that AIDS is transmitted via sexual contact while FIV is transmitted via deep bite wounds.

Can kittens get FIV?

  • Kittens are a unique case for FIV.
  • Because of how it is transmitted, kittens very rarely get it from their mother in utero or during the birthing process. 
    • Can only be transmitted in the way outlined above
  • But my kitten tested positive for FIV!
    • If your kitten tested positive for FIV, that likely means mom was infected with the virus. Like any virus, her immune system creates antibodies to fight the infection.
    • Nursing moms will share her antibodies with her babies via her milk.
    • When kittens are tested, the test looks for those antibodies, and if they have them, they are considered positive
    • BUT WAIT: This doesn’t mean they have the virus, and in fact, once they wean off mom and the antibodies are cleared from their system, they will test negative.
    • However, if a kitten tests positive for the virus, it could mean that they do have it, but that can only be determined when the kitten is older and after testing positive multiple times.

How do I care for a cat with FIV?

  • Cats with FIV can live long, healthy and happy lives. Which means they can most certainly shower you with snuggles and enrich your life with adorable antics.
  • A cat with FIV must be indoors-only.
  • Feed your cat a good quality diet, and steer clear of raw meat, raw eggs and unpasteurised milk.
  • Regular vet checks are essential for any cat, but for FIV cats, it is even more important to monitor and stay on top of their health.
    • Even minor issues can cause larger issues due to their compromised immune system.

Can I adopt an FIV+ cat if I have another cat at home?

  • FIV positive and FIV negative cats can live together safely if there is a stable social structure in the house (ie. no fighting), as they are extremely unlikely to fight to the degree required to transmit the disease.
  • All cats in the home must be fully vetted (spay/neutered, up to date on all vaccinations and must be indoor only cats).