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A Primer on Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is a disease that attacks a cat's immune system and lowers a cat's resistance to bacterial, fungal, viral, or parasite infections. The feline immunodeficiency virus is similar to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), but both viruses are species-specific: humans can't catch FIV and cats can't catch HIV.

Fast facts about FIV:

  • FIV is transmitted almost exclusively through deep, penetrating bite wounds, which is one reason why FIV is more often found in un-neutered male cats. Casual contact like snuggling doesn't spread FIV.

  • There is currently no effective treatment for FIV infection. However, proper health management will keep an FIV-positive cat healthy for as long as possible.

  • FIV-positive cats should be kept indoors for their safety and for the health of other cats. Regular vet care is extremely important; even a sniffle in an FIV-positive cat is worth a call to the vet. High-quality food and parasite control are crucial in maintaining an FIV-positive cat's health.

  • Research to find a cure for AIDS in humans involves FIV in cats as a research model. As this research progresses, there may be a treatment for FIV.

  • Although FIV vaccinations are available, the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) recommends against the FIV vaccine unless there is a very high risk of catching the disease. Cats that are vaccinated against FIV will come up positive when given a blood test to check for FIV, and the vaccine will not help to prevent FIV infection in cats that are already infected.

  • Vets say FIV-positive cats can live up to 12 years if they're well taken care of. But there are stories of FIV-positive cats living 20 years or more with no symptoms of any severe disease. For more information on FIV, read the Winn Feline Foundation's article on FIV in cats

Advice from Other Cat Owners 

When to Vaccinate Your Kitten

Kittens need their combo vaccine (FVRCPC) starting at 6 or 8 weeks and it is a series of 3 shots, with 2 or 4 week intervals in between. This is essential for building a healthy immune system, so no you cannot delay them or what would be the point of vaccinating?

Rabies would not be necessary for an indoor only cat, nor feline leukemia. I do not vaccinate for these if indoor-only because of the unnecessary risk of side effects. But this does mean your cat must remain indoor only. Definitely do de-worming and stool tests for parasites.

Vaccines are -not- expensive. If you have to ask about cost concerns on here, then definitely do not get two cats. If you have to ask about whether or not you can delay vaccinations or not give them at all, please consider not getting a cat. A FVRCPC shot or a vet visit cost about the same amount as a high quality bag of cat food, so if you can't afford that, please don't get a cat and then give it mediocre care.

~Chrysee H., owner of Ragdoll

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