What do you recommend for cats with feline HIV?
Beth Clifton is a veterinary technician, former animal control officer, and former police officer. Beth welcomes your questions about any aspect of animal care & control, c/o ANIMALS 24.7 “Comments” or email@example.com.
Q – I was curious as to what you recommend for cats with feline HIV. We have an indoor/outdoor cat, Izzy, who runs in to eat and out to play or sleep if the weather is nice. He’s pretty much indoors all winter. Outdoors he mostly stays on our property, with occasional forays to our immediate neighbor’s yard. I either clap my hands three times or tinkle the glass cat bowls together to call him and our other cat to dinner. He’d be miserable if confined indoors. (Roger W.)
A –Izzy will have the luxury of good veterinary care because you will take care of him. If he suffers you will relieve his suffering. Unfortunately, any stray or feral cats whom Izzy comes into contact with will not have the luxury of you looking out for them. With this disease they will suffer on the street, and at some point after an agonizing illness, will die. Meanwhile, they too will pass the disease on to other cats.
I’ve had kitties who were both inside/outside and then at some point had to stay inside my house. It can be done with cat trees and lots of interactive toys to stimulate their interest. They do adjust. I promise you that they do.
As to your kitties, I am hoping that perhaps as kittens they received at least a couple of vaccinations before coming to you, but you will be there for them when they need help.
FIV is only spread thru deep wound bites or sexual activity. I’m assuming Izzy is neutered and non-aggressive to other cats….. simply coming into contact with other cats will not spread FIV.
Merritt Clifton says
[Posted for Beth.] Izzy is fixed, and non-aggressive toward other cats, but these two preconditions only reduce the possibility that Izzy may transmit FIV to other cats; they do not prevent Izzy from possibly encountering other cats who are neither fixed nor non-aggressive, and inflicting a defensive bite which results in FIV transmission. Some cat advocates at this point may respond, “So what? The other cat started it.” Who started a cat fight is irrelevant, however, when the object is to prevent the transmission of a fatal disease.
The Maddies Purdue 10 year FIV Transmission study with over 400 cats showed conclusively that FIV is NOT easily transmissible without a really serious bite wound or intercourse.
And I see nothing here that supports the cat in question being fixed which is the number one reason for cat fights.
Ed Boks says
This week the Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) staff asked me to feature Portia, a staff favorite. Portia is a 4-year-old domestic short hair with a spice for life; described as cool, calm, confident, playful and a joy to be around. She is mellow enough to get along with a cat-savvy dog and respectful children.
Portia has had many suitors in her two months with YHS, but potential adopters quickly lost interest when they learned she has feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).
FIV has been responsible for the unnecessary killing of far too many cats in way too many animal shelters for too many years; and that is not right, because FIV cats often live long, healthy lives with few to no symptoms.
FIV is an endemic disease found in domestic cats worldwide. It is a lentivirus, which means it progresses slowly, gradually affecting a cat’s immune system. Cats are typically infected through a bite inflicted by a stray male cat – earning it the moniker “the fighting cat” disease.
The best-known lentivirus in humans is HIV – but there are major differences between FIV and HIV. HIV cannot infect cats and FIV cannot infect humans. In over 6,000 years of human/cat cohabitation, there has never been any evidence of an FIV cat infecting a human.
The fear concerning FIV cats is unfounded. I am the proud owner of an FIV cat, named Oliver, who lives happily with my FIV-free cat, Beau Bentley (for the past four years). I am distressed by the unwarranted apprehension I find among so many cat lovers regarding FIV.
As long as FIV cats are not exposed to diseases their immune system can’t handle, they can live relatively normal lives. Kept indoors, as we recommend for all cats, health risks are significantly reduced. FIV is not easily passed between cats; it cannot be spread casually – in litter boxes, water and food bowls, or through snuggling and playing. It requires a serious bite to transmit the disease from cat to cat.
Before we knew FIV existed, shelters routinely placed FIV cats into loving homes where they often lived long, normal lives. The discovery of FIV in 1986 brought with it an undeserved stigma that has since made placing these wonderful animals more difficult.
Dr. Susan Cotter, professor of hematology and oncology at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, is helping counteract these misinformed fears. “I would not advise getting rid of a cat that tests positive for FIV,” she says. “If the cat is young and healthy, it could be years before anything changes.”
The important thing is to keep your FIV cat healthy, which is good advice for all cats. In fact, the same advice we offer FIV cat adopters is equally appropriate for all cats. That is, all cats should be kept as healthy as possible; kept indoors and free from stress, fed a high-quality diet, and medical problems should be treated as soon as they arise.
If you already own a cat, ask your veterinarian (or the YHS Wellness Clinic) about early detection to help maintain his health and to help prevent the spread of this infection to other cats.
Although many FIV cats live long, happy lives, some may need periodic medical care or ongoing medical management. That is why adopting a special-needs animal is such a noble and selfless act.
Jamaka Petzak says
Excellent advice, not solely in regards to FIV+ cats, but concerning ALL cats, for the reasons everyone who cares about cats should know.