Everything You Need To Know About FIV In Cats

It’s pretty serious.

fiv cats

If your cat just tested positive for feline immunodeficiency virus, aka FIV, you’re probably wondering what that means for him.

FIV in cats is no joke, according to Ashley Callihan, a registered veterinary nurse with DodoVet — so we’re breaking down everything you need to know.

What is FIV in cats?

FIV in cats is an incurable viral infection that attacks your BFF’s immune system, similarly to the way HIV affects humans.

“This means that infected cats are much more susceptible to contracting other secondary infections and having more severe and longer-lasting symptoms,” Callihan told The Dodo.

How serious is FIV in cats?

Because FIV targets your cat’s immune system, you should take a diagnosis pretty seriously.

“Though an FIV-positive cat may seem perfectly healthy, that can all change very quickly if they contract even the slightest bacterial, viral or fungal infection,” Callihan said. “If an FIV-positive cat gets even the smallest wound or infection of any kind, it is much more difficult for them to heal and bounce back, since the immune system is compromised.”

How do cats get FIV?

The most common way cats get FIV is through a bite from an FIV-positive cat.

“When an infected cat bites another cat, the virus is spread through the saliva into the bloodstream,” Callihan said.

Another — but less common — way cats can get FIV is if a pregnant cat passes the virus to her kittens.

“Transmission is more likely to occur if the mother contracts FIV while pregnant with the kittens, rather than being infected prior to pregnancy,” Callihan said.

Luckily, the virus doesn’t live very long outside of a cat’s body.

“It isn’t likely to be spread through grooming [or] sharing food and water bowls [or] toys,” Callihan said.

Symptoms of FIV

According to Callihan, symptoms of FIV in cats include things like:

“When a cat first becomes infected with FIV, the symptoms are minimal and may even go unnoticed,” Callihan said. “After the initial symptoms, a cat may go months to even years without showing any other signs that it is infected.”

What’s the prognosis for cats with FIV?

It’s definitely scary that FIV seriously impacts your BFF’s immune system, but you can still give an FIV-positive cat a long and happy life.

And if you find out your cat is FIV positive, it’s important to know how seriously other infections can affect him in order to keep him as healthy as possible.

“FIV itself isn’t necessarily fatal, but the infections that may present as a result of FIV may be fatal,” Callihan said. “Even with quick medical intervention, the body might not be able to fight off the secondary infection.”

Preventing FIV

There is currently no vaccine available in North America for preventing FIV.

“The key is to be aware of the condition, which means getting your cat tested for the virus,” Callihan said.

So, before bringing a new cat home, you should take him to the vet to get him tested. Keeping your cats indoors only is a great way to prevent FIV, but if your cat goes outside sometimes, regular testing is crucial.

There’s unfortunately no cure for FIV in cats, so giving an FIV-positive cat the best life means protecting him from secondary infections. While that can all seem scary, your cat can still have a happy life with FIV.

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