cat has been diagnosed as FIV positive. Has he got feline
FIV positive simply means the cat has been infected with feline
immunodeficiency virus (FIV). Being infected with FIV
is not the same as having feline AIDS. Feline AIDS (FAIDS)
describes the terminal stages of disease associated with FIV
infection that may not occur for many years.
Can I catch FIV from a cat?
FIV is species-specific. It only infects cats. Although human
immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in man belongs to a similar group
of viruses there is no risk of cross infection.
How did my cat get this infection?
FIV is transmitted primarily by biting. Cats that are known
fighters, particularly those with a history of cat bite abscesses,
have a higher risk of being diagnosed as FIV positive. Kittens
can also be infected at birth, probably through virus that
is present in the queen's milk. Around a quarter to a third
of kittens born to an infected queen are likely to be infected
themselves. Normal social interactions, such as grooming, have
a very low risk of transmitting FIV.
How likely are my other cats
to be infected?
Other cats in the household may already be infected
with FIV but show no signs of illness. Generally, however,
the spread of FIV between cats through social contact alone
is very poor, so there is a good chance that the majority
of other household cats may still be uninfected.
Are my other cats at risk of becoming infected?
The risk to the other cats in the household is low unless
the FIV-infected cat is a fighter. The virus does not survive
long in the environment so this is not a source of infection
to other cats. However, saliva can contain large amounts of
virus so it is advisable to feed the FIV-infected cat separately.
is the long-term outlook for an FIV-infected cat?
It is not always possible to predict the long-term outlook
for cats found to be infected with FIV. Typically, following
infection a cat may remain in the asymptomatic phase of infection
(during which there are no external signs of illness) for
many years before declining in the FAIDS stage of the disease.
Advances in veterinary care have helped us to support cats
in the FAIDS stage for much longer than was possible in the
What can I do to keep my FIV-infected cat as healthy as possible?
You can help your cat by ensuring it has a healthy life-style
and good quality food together with regular worming, preventive
flea treatment and regular veterinary check-ups. Any infections
should be treated promptly and aggressively. The healthier
a cat is, the longer the asymptomatic period tends to be.
Keeping your cat indoors is also a good idea as it reduces
the likelihood of your cat picking up infections from other
cats as well as reducing the spread of the virus from your
cat to other cats. You should avoid feeding raw meat to your
cat and prevent it from hunting, where possible, as this carries
a risk of Toxoplasma gondii infection which cause
particularly serious illness in FIV-infected cats.
How is FIV diagnosed?
A blood test is used to diagnose FIV infection. The test
checks for an immune response (antibodies) to the virus. If
the test is positive it is likely that your cat has been infected
by the virus. False positive and negative results do occur
for a variety of reasons. For example, antibodies to the virus
present in the bloodstream of an infected queen can pass via
the milk into an uninfected kitten giving a false positive
test result. Kittens under four months of age that test positive
should therefore be retested when they are six months old.
Commercial laboratories also offer additional diagnostic tests
for FIV including the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.
Will my cat recover?
Once a cat is infected with virus it will remain infected
for the rest of its life.
What type of disease does FIV cause?
FIV causes disease because it destroys the cat's immune system
so it becomes unable to fight off infections in the normal
way and is vulnerable to developing cancer. Common clinical
signs of FIV infection include:
- Gingivitis/stomatitis (inflammation
of the gums/mouth)
- Weight loss
- Poor appetite
- Inflammation of the membrane
around the eyes (conjunctivitis)
- Swollen lymph glands
- Vomiting and diarrhoea
lot of these signs are very non-specific and many diseases
can have a similar clinical picture.
Is there any treatment?
Secondary infections can be effectively treated with antibiotics
but there is no specific treatment available for the virus.
Some cats have been treated with human anti-HIV drugs including
AZT (azidothymidine) and interferons with limited success.
Evening primrose oil (550 mg daily) seems to be helpful particularly
in the earlier stages following infection.
Should I have my cat euthanased?
Generally euthanasia is not necessary until the end stages
of disease. Like HIV infection in humans, cats with FIV have
a long period where they appear healthy and show no clinical
signs (the so-called asymptomatic phase of infection). This
period can last for several years during which your cat can
have a normal, happy life.
How do you stop cats becoming
As most cats become infected from bite wounds during fighting,
the risk of infection can be minimised by making sure your
cat is neutered and, where possible, kept in at night as this
is the most common time for cat fights.
One cat in my household is FIV positive and the others
are not, what should I do?
are two options:
1. Rehome the FIV positive cat to a house with no other cats.
2. As the risk of infection spreading to other cats by social
contact is low, many people choose to keep the FIV- positive
cat. In this case, the FIV-positive cat should have a separate
feeding bowl from the other cats and food should not be left
down for all cats to share.
Does my FIV-infected cat still
need its booster injections?
Whether or not FIV-infected cats should receive routine vaccination
is disputed. Stimulating the immune system by giving a vaccine
may lead to progression of FIV infection by altering the balance
between immune system and virus. However, FIV-infected cats
are prone to acquiring infections and, therefore, protecting
them from diseases such as cat flu may be beneficial. The
potential benefits and risks of vaccinating FIV-infected cats
should be weighed up in individual cats. Indoor cats which
have been vaccinated within the last few years have a very
low risk of acquiring infections, so booster vaccination is
(probably) best avoided. Whereas in outdoor cats with risk
of exposure to infections, vaccination is advised.
there in no evidence that FIV-infected cats are at increased
risk from modified live virus vaccines, inactivated
vaccines are recommended whenever available as immune-suppressed
cats may be at an increased risk of developing clinical disease
if a modified live vaccine is administered.
Can I protect my cat with
a vaccination against FIV?
At the moment there are no vaccines for FIV available in
Europe. A vaccine for FIV is available in the USA although
there is limited information concerning the efficacy of this