FIV – Feline Aids
Feline Immunodeficincy Virus (FIV), also refered to as Feline AIDS, is an infectious disease that attacks certain cells in the cat’s immune system. As the virus replicates and spreads, it compromises the body’s ability to fight off secondary infections.FIV Is most commonly transferred between cats when they fight, because infected cats have large amounts of the virus present in their blood. Undesexed adult male cats are the most likely to be infected, and through fighting and mating they spread the virus to others. For this reason (amongst many others) it is extremely important to desex your cat if you plan to let them go outside.
When a cat is initially infected with FIV they become acutely unwell. After a few weeks they then enter an asymptomatic phase where the cat will appear healthy and is able to lead a normal life. This period may last for many years, even for the duration of an average life span (10 – 15yrs). But all the while the virus continues to replicate and destroy more of the immune system.Eventually the immune system ceases to function completely and can no longer fight opportunistic infections. Once this has occurred, cats display a wide range of symptoms such as weight loss, chronic secondary infections (such as gingivitis or respiratory infections), and cancer. Sadly this is the final stage of FIV.
Once a cat has been infected with FIV they cannot be cured. So it is essential to provide them with quality preventative care and limit their exposure to disease. This means desexing, a trip to the vet at the first sign of illness, a good balanced diet, and minimising their contact with other cats (in case they are carriers for diseases that a healthy immune system can cope with, but an cat with FIV can’t).
Many people live with cats infected with FIV together with cats who are not. If the cats have a good relationship and don’t fight, there is next to no chance that the infected cat will spread the disease to their companion. For an FIV positive cat to transfer the virus to another cat, there has to be blood to blood transmission. For this to occur there would have to be a deep scratch or bite wound where both cats bleed and the FIV infected blood enters the non-FIV infected cats’ body. A playful nip or light scratch from an FIV positive cat to another cat will not transmit FIV.
There is now also a vaccine to help protect cats from FIV, (however it does not provide complete immunisation and desexing is always strongly recommended as the best protection against FIV).
FIV is not a death sentence, it simply means adjusting your cat’s life style to support him or her to live with this virus. Through appropriate vet treatment and loving care an FIV positive cat can lead a long and happy life.