What is Feline Immunodeficiency Virus?

FIV or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is a viral disease that affects cats exclusively (lentivirus group).

Feline immunodeficiency virus slow-acting. It gradually weakens the immune system by attacking the white blood cells and altering their function which makes the infected cat more prone to other infections and diseases. This virus is the feline equivalent of human HIV, and it is also known as Feline AIDS.

On the infographic below you can find some quick info about the virus, how it affects the cat and how to take care for an infected one.

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How is it transmitted?

The infected cat carries FIV in the saliva and passes on the virus by biting during fights. 

There have been cases that kittens from an infected mother cat are FIV+, but not many become infected. These kittens should be re-tested for FIV when they are six months old to ensure that they are not FIV+.

How is FIV diagnosed?

Blood tests are available for the diagnosis of FIV in cats. These tests detect antibodies to the virus from a blood sample, and they also come as commercial kits. 

What are the clinical signs?

When the cat gets infected, it may take from four weeks up to several years to develop the first clinical sign. The symptoms are recurring and may include:

  • Mouth and gum inflammation (stomatitis)
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fever
  • Enlarged lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy)
  • Skin problems
  • Weight loss
  • Neurological conditions that can cause a change in temperament and behaviours
  • Lethargy

Cats with FIV may have a shorter lifespan due to the deterioration of their immune system.

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Are there any treatments available?

Unfortunately there is no treatment for FIV. Any treatment given is to reduce and alleviate other signs and illness caused by the virus. 

What animals are more prone to FIV?

Male feral cats and outdoor cats are likely to get infected because of territorial fights. 

How to take care of a FIV+ cat?

Infected cats should be neutered and kept indoors and have regular vet visits and check-ups. Quality and balanced nutrition and a low-stress life can also help promote a good quality of life.

Can a FIV+ cat live in the same household with other cats?

Yes, but that will depend on the cat’s behavior more than the disease itself. It is important that the cats do not fight as bites are the main cause of infection.