FIV is an acronym for feline immunodeficiency virus, a disease affecting domestic cats and other members of the feline family. FIV is similar to the HIV virus that affects human beings, however FIV only affects cats and cannot be transmitted to people. Unlike feline leukemia, another feline immune disease which is always fatal, a cat that has contracted FIV can live a long and healthy life with veterinary care and a healthy lifestyle
FIV is contracted through contact with a cat that is already carrying the virus. The most common way that it is passed is though saliva, especially during cat fights. A cat can become infected during mating and kittens can contract FIV from their mother. Occasionally, FIV can be passed between cats that are sharing a litter box and food or water dishes, though exchange of body fluids is the biggest factor. Additionally, blood transfusions can also cause a cat to become infected; however veterinarians usually test donor blood for FIV prior to use.
FIV does not itself cause symptoms in the cat’s body. It does however compromise the immune system and makes it difficult for the animal to fight off common illnesses that a healthy cat would never even show signs of. FIV infected cats are prone to pneumonia, upper respiratory infections, FELV, cancer and a myriad of other problems. There is currently no cure for FIV however there is a preventative vaccine. You should have your cat vaccinated against FIV if you plan to let it outdoors.
A cat that has already contracted the virus can live a quality life with special care. First, the cat should not be allowed to go outdoors and should be kept away from other cats that may go in or out. If you have other cats in the home they should be vaccinated against FIV and other common feline diseases. Secondly, the cat should receive regular veterinary care and be seen at the first signs of illness no matter how insignificant it seems. A cat with FIV should also receive a highly nutritious diet to stay in optimal health.