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Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) Education

Check out our blog for even more information on FIV, FeLV, and stories about our cats!

What is FIV?

FIV stands for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. It's a lentivirus, meaning that it progresses very slowly, gradually affecting a cat's immune system. It is passed through blood transfusions and through very serious penetrating bite wounds and“ mainly by stray intact male cats. The most well know lentivirus in humans is HIV, but the two are not the same and you cannot get FIV from a cat. FIV positive cats can test positive because they are exposed to the virus and are fighting it, because they are infected with the virus or because they have received a vaccine for FIV.

FIV positive cats can live many years without any issues. See our website for many of our wonderful FIV positive and non-FIV positive cats. We had a wonderful cat in our program - Maximillian. He was at least 17 years old and tested positive for FIV when he was two years old. He's been completely healthy all of these years. Like many of our FIV kitties, he is incredibly friendly and even enjoys walking on a leash and harness.

FIV Facts

  • FIV is not "Feline AIDS."
  • The Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is a slow virus that may affect a cat's immune system over a period of years.
  • FIV is a cat-only disease and cannot be spread to humans or other non-felines.
  • FIV cats most often live long, healthy, and relatively normal lives with no symptoms at all.
  • FIV is not easily passed between cats. It cannot be spread casually - like in litter boxes, water and food bowls, or when snuggling and playing. It is rarely spread from a mother to her kittens.
  • The virus can be spread through blood transfusions, badly infected gums, or serious, penetrating bite wounds. Bite wounds of this kind are extremely rare, except in free-roaming, un-neutered tomcats.
  • In-house tests for FIV only test for exposure to the virus, which means that cats that have been exposed or vaccinated against FIV will test positive. A more sensitive test is needed to determine if the cat actually has the virus.
  • Kittens younger than 6 months of age that test positive are almost always still carrying their mother's antibodies. It is very rare for kittens younger than 6 months to actually have the virus, and should always be retested as they get older. Most eventually test negative.
  • A neutered cat, in a home, is extremely unlikely to infect other cats, if properly introduced.
  • Many vets are not educated about FIV since the virus was only discovered 15 years ago.
  • FIV-positive cats should be kept as healthy as possible. Keep them indoors and free from stress, feed them a high-quality diet, keep and treat any secondary problems as soon as they arise.

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