Understanding And Protecting Your FIV-Positive Cat

Finding out that your cat has feline immunodeficiency virus (otherwise known as FIV or feline aids) can be devastating for a pet parent. Your thoughts might immediately turn to wondering how long your beloved kitty will live, or whether your other pets are at risk. While FIV is in the same genetic family as the human HIV virus, they share very few similarities and FIV cats can often live a healthy, long life. Read on to dispel some myths surrounding FIV and learn how to care for your FIV-positive cat.

What FIV Is

Similarly to HIV, FIV can lie dormant in your cat’s body after infection for months or years. Because of this, it can be difficult to recognize the symptoms of the disease progressing since the initial transmission may have occurred a long time ago. Here are some basic symptoms to look out for:

  • Frequent Illness – If your cat seems to become ill frequently, they might have a weakened immune system, which is one symptom of FIV.
  • Enlarged Lymph Nodes – Swollen lymph nodes indicate that the body is fighting an infection. Cats have lymph nodes in many parts of their bodies, but the nodes in the throat may be the most noticeably inflamed.
  • Behavioral Changes – If your cat seems irritated, restless, or has problems with its vision or hearing, it could potentially be a sign of FIV.

What FIV Does

The biggest risk to a FIV-positive cat is acquiring illnesses or viruses from other cats. At its core, FIV is a disease that weakens the immune system, making it hard for the cat’s body to fight off common colds and infections. Because of this, a simple scratch wound from another cat, a cold virus or even gum infection can be potentially life-threatening to a cat with FIV.

Over time, your cat may also become more susceptible to gum disease, fur loss, weight loss, and cancer. Despite this, many FIV-positive cats live just as long as their FIV-negative counterparts, particularly if precautions are taken to protect the cat from catching secondary illnesses.

The Risk To Others

One of the greatest fears of FIV is that one FIV-positive cat will infect your other cats. While this is possible, it’s also rare. FIV is usually only spread by deep, penetrating bites, as the disease is spread through bodily fluids and can’t live outside of the body for more than a few seconds. So cats sharing water and food bowls or grooming each other are highly unlikely to acquire the disease.

You can also protect your FIV-negative cats by getting them vaccinated against the disease. This will increase their immunity and protect them against catching FIV, so you can feel at ease knowing they’re safe. Other species, like dogs and humans, cannot catch FIV.

Hopefully, this has reassured you that a FIV-positive cat is not doomed: a cat with the disease needs special care and protection from secondary infections and illnesses, but otherwise can live a fairly healthy life with little to no risk of infecting other cats. For more information, make sure you’re in contact with an experienced vet at a clinic like North Collier Animal Clinic.