Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
What is Feline Immunodeficiency Virus?
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is a virus that affects the immune system of cats over time. FIV typically has a long “asymptomatic” phase” in which infected cats may remain symptom free for years and some may never develop active disease. However, in some cases, the infection eventually leads to a state of immune deficiency that hinders the cat’s ability to protect itself against other infections. The same bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi that may be found in the everyday environment—where they usually do not affect healthy animals—can cause illness in those with weakened immune systems. These secondary infections are responsible for many of the diseases associated with FIV.
How is FIV spread?
• FIV is a cat-only disease and cannot be spread to humans or other non-felines.
• Even though it is a cat-only disease, FIV is not easily passed between cats. FIV is not contagious through casual contact like sharing litter boxes, water and food bowls, or when mutually grooming, snuggling and playing. It is rarely spread from a mother to her kittens.
• FIV is almost always spread through deeply penetrating bite wounds. (Bite wounds of this kind are extremely rare, except in free-roaming, unneutered cats.)
• A spayed or neutered cat, in a stable home, is extremely unlikely to infect other companion cats. ASAP considers it safe to adopt FIV+ cats to homes with non-FIV cats if the cats are social with each other and the feline household is stable and stress-free.
• FIV is not very durable in the environment. It becomes non-infective quickly outside of a cat and is susceptible to all disinfectants including common soap.
What are the signs of disease caused by FIV?
An infected cat’s health may deteriorate progressively or be characterized by recurring illness interspersed with periods of relative health. Sometimes not appearing for years after infection, signs of immunodeficiency can appear anywhere throughout the body.
How should I take care of my FIV+ cat?
• As with all cats, FIV+ cats should be kept as healthy as possible and fed a high-quality diet.
• FIV+ cats should be kept indoors and free from stress.
• Any suspected health issues should be treated as soon as they arise.
How long can I expect my FIV+ cat to live?
It is impossible to accurately predict the life expectancy of any cat, including those infected with FIV. With appropriate care and under ideal conditions, many infected cats will remain in good health for many years.
When you adopt any cat, including one with FIV, the only guarantee is love and companionship for as long as you are together!