HEARD OF FIV? NOT SURE WHAT IT IS? READ ON...
(The information below should not be used as a substitute for consultation with a veterinary professional. If you have specific questions or concerns about FIV, contact your
- FIV stands for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. The virus can suppress a cat's immune system, and may make them prone to other infections. The virus generally attacks the immune system over the
course of many years.
- FIV was first identified in 1986 and has spread worldwide. In the US 1.5-3% of healthy cats have FIV. (according to Cornell Feline Health)
- Cats who are FIV+ can live long and healthy lives. It is not uncommon for FIV+ cats to live into their teens like cats without FIV.
- The primary way FIV is spread is through bite wounds (when saliva of the infected cat directly enters the bloodstream of the non-infected cat). Occasionally mother cats pass FIV on to their
kittens. When re-tested a few weeks later, MOST kittens will have passed these maternal antibodies that caused them to test FIV+ in the first instance, and will now test correctly negative for
- FIV is NOT spread by sharing litter boxes or food bowls. It is also NOT spread by cats cuddling or playing with each other.
- FIV cannot be "cured". FIV+ cats do not require ongoing medication. Over time, however, FIV+ cats will become more likely to get secondary infections, as FIV suppresses their immune systems. On
rare occasions, cats who have initially tested FIV+ will re-test Negative after several months have elapsed. Some cats are able to "rid" themselves of the virus and test Negative on subsequent tests.
This is the exception, though, not the rule. When FIV+ cats are removed from shelter situations and are living in a home, there are very few times they will actually come down with illnesses simply
because they are removed from situations where they are likely to be exposed to viral and/or bacterial infections, i.e. living in colonies, shelters and foster home settings.
- FIV cannot be transmitted to people or dogs (or any other non-cat pets).
- FIV is identified by a blood test. Young kittens may exhibit a false positive result for FIV due to transmission of antibodies from the mother cat even though the kitten does not have FIV. In
these instances, the kitten should be tested again when they are six months old to determine if the result was a false positive or if the kitten really is FIV+.
- The best way to protect your cat from getting FIV is to keep them indoors. For outdoor cats, spaying and neutering reduces behaviors such as fighting that are more likely to result in the bite
wounds that transmit FIV. If you bring a stray cat into your home, be sure to keep him separate from your resident cats until he can be tested for FIV (and cat diseases such as feline leukemia).
- FIV+ cats are sweet, funny, affectionate, and playful, just as any other cat. In fact, because they have truly experienced a tough life on the streets, many times these cats are extraordinarily
grateful and affectionate for being given the chance to live indoors with an infinite amount of love, care, food and a warm place to sleep.
So, by now you are saying to yourself -
This is all very interesting, but what does it have to do with me?
Due to a lack of understanding, rescues find it more difficult to place FIV+ cats into homes. This is a fact.
Now that you have the scoop on FIV, please consider adopting a FIV+ cat (or two so that they can keep each other company!)
Yes, these cats are not the "perfect" cuddly kittens. Most of the FIV+ cats that Stray Cat Blues rescues have lived very hard lives on the streets. These cats are TRULY grateful for a soft bed and
regular meals. We cannot guarantee that your FIV+ cat will live to be 15, nor can we guarantee that the young kitten you adopt will live to be a year. Young kittens have no better chance of reaching
their teens than an FIV+ cat. But we do know that your FIV+ cat will be a loving companion. These cats deserve homes, with families that love them.
Stray Cat Blues tests all cats in our care for FIV. Any cats that are FIV+ have been identified as such in their listings on Petfinder.com and Adoptapet.com. Stray Cat Blues generally recommends
that FIV+ cats be adopted into homes either as only cats or with other FIV+ cats; however, on occasion we have had adopters select FIV+ cats to be companions to their non-FIV cats at home. The FIV+
cats they select are carefully screened as to their compatibility with other cats. Many FIV+ cats are gregarious, loving companions not only to their adopters, but also to other cats already living
in the household. FIV is not spread by casual contact, mutual grooming or sharing litterboxes, food or water bowls. The primary method of transmission is when an infected cat bites another cat.
Saliva from the infected cat gets into the bloodstream of the uninfected cat thereby spreading FIV.
If you adopt a FIV+ cat,
- Be sure to feed them a nutritionally complete and balanced diet.
- Do not feed them raw foods such as uncooked meat.
- Consult with your veterinarian. Make sure they know that your cat is FIV+. They may recommend semi-annual check-ups so that any secondary infections are identified early and treated.
- Consider having a house-call vet - having a vet come to your home will eliminate the unnecessary stress of having to place your cat in a carrier and transport him or her to the vet's office where
the cat could come into contact with other viruses.
- It is vital to have your FIV+ cat's teeth cleaned at least once a year. February is Pet Dental Month. This is a good time to schedule your cat(s) dental care. Perhaps your vet runs specials
during the month of February for dental care.
- Keep stress levels down.
- Be aware of any physical or behavioral changes in your cat. If anything concerns you, consult with your veterinarian.