Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

FIV (Feline immunodeficiency virus) is a viral infection that affects cats. It causes affected animals to have a weaker immune system in comparison with non-FIV positive cats.

FIV initially results in a short-lived illness that's often not even noticed by a cat's owner. Cats then enter a stage of progressive immune system decline, but many remain without symptoms for many years. In fact, research shows that FIV cats may have a similar life expectancy to uninfected cats.

While these cats may be prone to a variety of common diseases, there are no specific symptoms for FIV cats. An FIV positive cat may be more prone to chronic respiratory infections, skin problems, mouth inflammation and certain types of tumours, but there's no definitive rule.

Here are some frequently asked questions about FIV.

How do cats catch FIV?

FIV is most commonly seen in unneutered male cats who've been fighting for territory. It's spread by biting and body fluids and doesn't spread in the environment. Kittens can sometimes be passed the infection from their mum, but many can clear it before they're six months old.

This disease is one of the main reasons why we strongly recommend that all cats are neutered at four months of age, as neutering can reduce a male cat's urge to mate, roam and fight.

Can humans catch FIV?

While FIV is related to HIV in humans, there's no way that the cat virus can cross between species and infect people. FIV only affects cats, cannot be transmitted to non-felines.

Can FIV be cured?

Although there's no cure for FIV, some infected cats are able to live long and happy lives and can make wonderful pets. A vaccine exists to prevent FIV infection in America, but its use is controversial and it's not available in the UK.

Can positive cats be kept with other pets?

Although FIV isn't easily transmitted between cats (only through deep bites and not via sharing food and other normal interaction), the risk means that a FIV positive cat should only be adopted into a single-cat household. 

As FIV can't be transmitted to humans or other non-feline animals, an FIV positive cat is able to share his or her environment with a dog or other pet, as long as there are no other cats.

What should you feed a FIV cat?

You should feed your FIV cat a good quality, balanced diet. They shouldn't be given any raw food or dairy products, as the risk of contracting foodborne bacterial and parasitic disease is greater in immunosuppressed individuals.

Will I be able to insure my FIV cat?

You should inform your pet insurance company if your cat is infected with FIV - just as with any other pre-existing condition. Each insurer offers different terms and conditions, but many don't provide payouts for pre-existing conditions or illnesses. Be sure to fully discuss FIV with any potential insurers.

Veterinary and health needs for FIV positive cats

Contact your vet quickly if you have any concerns that your cat has caught an infection, or shows any other signs of ill health. Visit your vet for an annual check-up and keep up to date with vaccinations. Make sure that you provide regular preventative healthcare, such as anti-parasite treatments, as recommended by your vet.

Rehoming a cat with FIV

FIV cats can enjoy a happy life and can make wonderful companions. However, we'll only rehome FIV cats we believe can be happy as indoor-only cats.  
To prevent the disease from spreading, the FIV cat must be the only cat in the household, so if you'd like to have a one-cat home, an FIV cat might suit you.
Adopting an FIV positive cat can be really rewarding. Although nobody can predict the future, many FIV cats can potentially live long, healthy and full lives, just like a non-infected cat. They also have all the usual needs of any cat, such as a nutritious diet, mental stimulation and plenty of love!

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