Feline Aids

Feline aids, or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), is a complex retrovirus that only cats can contract.

It is the same class of virus as HIV (a lentivirus), but it causes immunodeficiency disease in domestic cats (weakening of the immune system).

What Causes FIV?

  1. Cats can contract FIV at time of birth (not as common)
  2. Cats can contract FIV through (deep) scratch and bite wounds (cat-to-cat transmission)
  3. FIV has been found in cat semen, so sexual transmission can cause FIV (uncommon)

Aggressive fights, often caused by territorial disputes, usually lead to cause no.2.

What are the Symptoms of FIV?

Because the immune system of a feline with FIV cannot respond normally to protect it from threats, there are many possible symptoms.

How is FIV Diagnosed?

Several tests have to be performed by a veterinarian before diagnosis is possible.

  • Physical examination
  • Background and medical history check
  • Complete blood profile: chemical blood profile, complete blood count and a urinalysis

Bacterial, viral or fungal infections have to be ruled out along with the presence of parasites and tumours.

Can FIV Be Treated and How?

Cats with FIV are generally not hospitalised, unless dehydration is an issue.

An improved diet may help and infections that can be treated, will be prioritised. A tumour or more serious infections may require surgery.

Can FIV Be Cured?

FIV cannot be cured. It can only be managed by treating symptoms as best as possible.

How Can FIV Be Managed?

A cat with FIV will have to be monitored for the effects of secondary infections and other FIV-related symptoms.

You have to be aware of how severe the symptoms may become and that it can be fatal. Early detection, however, does increase life expectancy and quality of life.

Average life expectancy from time of diagnosis: 5 years

How Can FIV Be Prevented?

  • Vaccination
  • Keep your cat away from cats that may have FIV
  • Quarantine and test new cats that are introduced to your house

Some cats are only carriers (may never show symptoms) and vaccinated cats may test positive.

Can Humans Get FIV from Cats?

No. FIV only affects felines.

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