FIV+ Cats Have a Future!
There is so much confusion about FIV+ cats. Until recently, a diagnosis of FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, or Feline AIDS) was an automatic death sentence. Adult cats were euthanized, and kittens who tested positive were also killed, even though they did not actually have the virus. This page is dedicated to raising awareness about FIV+ cats, telling their stories, and sharing information about this misunderstood virus. Our goals are to educate the public, promote the responsible adoption of FIV+ cats, and support the work of other people who are helping these deserving animals live full and happy lives.
In Memory of Toby
Toby was an elderly gentleman, 10-12 years old. He was found wandering homeless on Boca Chica Island. A kind person arranged for Toby to ride in a taxi cab to David, where he was picked up and placed in foster care with Saldea. Toby suffered a lot on the island – a lot of fights with other cats, a lot of hunger, a lot of exposure to harsh elements, and a lot of lost teeth. His ears were bitten off in fights. In spite of his battle scarred appearance, Toby was a loving, gentle fellow who loved nothing more than a soft bed to sleep on. His quiet, calm, and sociable nature was utterly charming. This dear fellow passed away suddenly from a stroke. His final month of life was spent in the loving care of a devoted foster home, where he got all the attention and affection he deserved. Up until the stroke, Toby was in good health. In Toby’s memory, we will work diligently to be sure other FIV+ cats are brought in sooner and can enjoy every happiness.
Did You Know…
Within 4-6 years after infection, only 20% of cats infected with FIV become sick and die. Over 50% will remain completely free of symptoms. FIV is a slow-developing virus, and does NOT guarantee that a cat will get sick and die! Most cats live a normal lifespan with FIV.
The FIV virus is transmitted through deep bite wounds, and can only live for a few seconds in the open air. Free-roaming, aggressive, un-neutered male cats are most likely to transmit and become infected with the virus. FIV is not transmitted through fleas, urine, feces, or mother cats’ milk. FIV is not sexually transmitted.
Kittens do not inherit FIV from their mothers. They will have antibodies, but are not infected. They will lose the antibodies as they grow up, and eventually lose all antibody protection and test negative. Because they can have a false positive result on the FIV test, kittens should not be tested.
FIV is NOT contagious to other species! Humans, dogs, horses, birds, etc. are in no danger.
The best ways to prevent the spread of FIV are to spay/neuter your cat, and keep it indoors at all times.
FIV is found world-wide. It was first discovered in 1986 in the United States. In the United States, of those infected, about 75% are aggressive males and 25% are females. Overall, the incidence is 1.5-3% of healthy cats.
In households with stable cat social structures, there is little chance of biting or fighting, and thus very little risk of infection.
FIV lowers the cat’s natural immunity to common, normally harmless bacteria and viruses. When an FIV cat gets sick, the lymph nodes become swollen and the cat develops a fever. Poor coat condition and a persistent fever are common symptoms. Inflammation of the gums, mouth, skin, eyes, bladder, upper respiratory tract, and diarrhea can occur.
The best way to manage FIV in a cat is to provide an uncrowded, stress-free home environment, ensure the cat is sterilized, and provide high quality nutrition. Bring the cat for regular vet checks to monitor for the emergence of possible immune-related illnesses as the cat ages.
Some authorities recommend testing any new addition to a cat family. However, this is often impractical, and there are inaccuracies with the test. Scientists are working on a FIV vaccine, but it is still controversial. Any vaccinated cat will test positive for FIV, thus potentially endangering its future due to misunderstanding.
In the past, authorities have argued against adopting an FIV+ cat into a FIV- household. However, evidence for this policy is weak. Unless a cat is a biter-fighter, the risk is minimal. Cats feel less stress in a loving home, thus adoption is the best option for FIV+ cats.
Many vets worldwide have relied on old, outdated studies of poor scientific quality to inform their decisions about FIV+ cats. Do NOT accept a death sentence or dire prediction for a healthy FIV+ cat, because new research shows that the prospects for FIV+ cats are very bright!
Living Their Best Lives
As with every cat, we strive to place FIV+ cats in the environment that best suits them. Finding the right home is especially important for FIV+ cats, because they need a low-stress environment. Here are two examples.
Garfield Mayor, the orange tabby, lives in a specialized FIV+ shelter, along with two other FIV+ cats. He is loved, pampered, and has a palatial cat home to call his own. Most of our FIV+ cats do best in regular home settings, but Garfield Mayor found his happiness here.
Ragus Regal is a cat who thinks he’s a dog! He is the cheerful, fearless leader of a pack of five dogs. He is the Boss Dog who keeps them all in line. Most cats would not want this lifestyle, but Ragus Regal is living the dream! Go figure!