The Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is very similar to (but NOT the same as) the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and is a major cause of illness and death in cats. The virus is found in body fluids such as saliva and is most commonly spread from cat to cat through bites. Although less common, the disease may be spread to kittens though infected milk when they begin to nurse. It is therefore most common in free-roaming male cats that fight, although ANY CAT CAN BECOME INFECTED.
It can take weeks, months, or even years for a cat to show signs of illness from FIV so an infected cat can appear perfectly healthy while it is spreading the virus to other cats. Over time, FIV attacks the cat’s immune system, decreasing their ability to fight off infections. Common ailments include chronic mouth, respiratory, and intestinal infections; fungal infections; infections of the nervous system such as Toxoplasmosis; cancer; and blood disorders including leukemia. Unfortunately, there is no cure for FIV.
Diagnosis of Feline Immunodeficiency Virus can usually be made through a quick and simple blood test that can be run right in the veterinarian’s office although, in some cases, other tests may need to be performed. False positive results can occur, especially in kittens under 6 months of age, so positive test results should be confirmed. It is important to know that it can take up to 6 months for an infected cat to test positive.
The best way to prevent FIV infection is through preventing exposure to the virus. FIV positive cats should not be allowed contact with negative cats, and should not be allowed to roam free outdoors. There is now a vaccine available for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. However, we do not recommend the vaccine because it is currently impossible to distinguish between infected and vaccinated cats.
Your veterinarian can answer any questions you may have about the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus.