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FIV – Feline AIDS

feline immunodeficiency virus

FIV stands for feline immunodeficiency virus, often referred to as feline AIDS. It's a lentivirus, or slow virus, which affects the cat's immune system over a period of years. It's a cat-only disease, so you and your other non-feline pets cannot catch it from your cat.


It was identified in 1987 and also occurs in non-domestic big cats. FIV is spread between cats by deep penetrating bite wounds and blood transfusions. It cannot be spread casually such as from litter boxes; water and food bowls; or snuggling, grooming, and playing.

Pretty little Priscilla (one of SCOOP's FIV+ cats) is doing quite well despite all she has been through.

which cats are susceptible?

Aggressive, free-roaming, male cats are more likely to become infected with FIV than any other type of domesticated cat. Male cats are two times more likely to be FIV-positive than female cats.


what happens after an FIV+ diagnosis?

While in the past it may have been recommended that a cat who was positive for FIV be euthanized, today it's known that there is no reason to euthanize an FIV-positive cat. Such a diagnosis is not a death sentence, and cats who are positive can live long and normal lives with no symptoms. After all, there's no guarantee that any cat will not develop some disease. 

Cats who test positive for FIV should be retested with a three-month period (or longer) in between, since false positive readings can occur. Also, since it takes up to 12 weeks (or longer) before antibodies are at a detectable level, cats who test negative should be retested. All cats vaccinated with the FIV vaccine will test positive for FIV. If your vaccinated cat was ever lost and then found and taken to a shelter, the cat may be euthanized as a result of this false positive test.

what do I do for my FIV+ cat?

An FIV-positive cat does not need to be separated from other cats unless there's serious fighting and the possibility of biting. Neutered males are less likely to fight. If an FIV-positive cat who fights is moved into a separate area from other cats in the household, there is no risk of spreading the disease.


FIV-positive cats need no expensive medications, since there are none commonly used in the treatment of FIV. The cats should receive immediate veterinary care, as should any cat, when any type of symptom occurs.


Can a mother cat give it to her kittens?

FIV is rarely spread from mother cat to her kittens, although some kittens can have a false positive result due to the mother's antibodies being passed to them. Kittens should not be tested for FIV before the age of 6 months, since it takes a number of weeks before the maternal FIV antibody is cleared. If tested at too young of an age, false positives are likely.


Now that you know the facts about feline FIV, please educate others. Too often, cats who test positive are unnecessarily euthanized. Please adopt a special-needs cat. The rewards are so great!

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