By: Dr. Dietsch | September 10, 2019
The following are a collection of frequently asked questions about FIV.
What is FIV? Is it like AIDS?
FIV stands for feline immunodeficiency virus. It basically means that they have a depressed immune system – so they are extra susceptible to kitty colds. It is not like AIDS – which is the late stage of HIV. It is similar to AIDS in that it’s tough to get through normal, casual contact – but it’s not nearly as deadly for your host as AIDS is for a human. FIV is similar in spirit to HIV because it is also makes your human immune system weaker, like FIV makes a cat’s immune system weaker. Often people use ‘AIDS’ to mean ‘HIV’ which is incorrect. FIV is not “cat AIDS.”
How do cats get FIV?
Cats get FIV through deep bite wounds. In rare instances, mating and mother/kitten transmission are seen. Casual play and sharing a space is not a method of transmission. The kind of deep bite wounds that transmit FIV are usually bloody and may result in the attacking cat ripping hair out. Only ugly fights will transmit FIV, not play fights. Sometimes play fights can involve scratching and growling. If your cats otherwise get along (sharing beds, grooming behavior, generally finding each other pleasant), your cats are unlikely to engage in the kind of biting that will result in sharing FIV.
I am interested in adopting a cat with FIV. Can I adopt her and bring her home to my cat?
Absolutely! You should adopt an FIV cat. If you introduce the cats to each other gradually, and the cats accept each other, there is no danger to your negative kitty.
To introduce kitties:
Make sure each cat has their own ‘territory’ – often this will mean separate rooms which are (for a week) separated by a closed door.
Each cat should have plenty of places to hide – and don’t forget vertical space! Shelves and cat trees are great for diffusing tension.
Consider purchasing feliway or another calming product.
The most important thing is that your cats begin to associate each other with good things – petting, food, whatever. Make sure happy, positive experiences align with the introduction. Feed the cats together, pet them together.
What do I need to know about my new FIV cat?
Watch her teeth! And: at the first sign of a cold, see your vet. Colds might manifest as sneezing or poor coat condition. Feel under your cats jaw and if you feel two enlarged sacs – that’s her lymph nodes. Kitty should see a vet.
Make sure that you see a vet once a year and the vet checks your cat’s teeth.
Although it is common for FIV kitties to suffer from diarrhea, it is NOT normal. Make sure to visit your vet if your kitty is dealing with persistent diarrhea. Rapid weight loss or gain is also a reason to visit your vet.
Mabel (the calico) lives in perfect harmony with her best friend (and littermate) Dipper (FIV+).