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5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Fear FIV in Cats

Feline immunodeficiency virus fears leave many adoptable kitties with no home. This has to stop.

 |  Apr 16th 2014  |   39 Contributions


We have some huge news in the cat rescue community. A few weeks ago, the results of a study about FIV transmission between infected and non-infected cats were published in The Veterinary Journal. The results confirmed what a lot of us have known for decades: FIV is not transmitted between cats who live peacefully together. But there are lots of other reasons you shouldn’t walk past the FIV kitties the next time you visit the shelter looking for a new feline friend to bring home, too.

Here are five reasons you shouldn’t be scared of FIV in cats:

Snuggling does not spread FIV. Photo CC-BY Liz via Flickr

1. FIV is not contagious from casual contact

Mutual grooming, eating from the same bowls, using the same litter box, snuggling and playing won’t cause transmission of FIV. The virus can’t be passed from one cat to another unless they are fighting so viciously that they inflict deep bite wounds on one another.

2. FIV is not an automatic death sentence

The vast majority of FIV-positive cats will live long, healthy lives as long as they are kept indoors and receive regular veterinary care. I’ve known FIV-positive cats who have lived well into their teens.

Mutual grooming doesn't spread the virus, either. Photo CC-BY-SA Pete Markham

3. FIV-positive cats are largely healthy

The feline immunodeficiency virus acts very slowly, and the vast majority of FIV-positive cats show no signs of the disease at all for many years. However, dental care is very important because FIV-positive cats do tend to be more susceptible to gum disease, so make sure you do what your vet tells you in order to keep your FIVer’s teeth shiny and his mouth healthy.

4. An FIV-positive cat may not even have the virus

If a cat has been vaccinated against FIV at any time in his life, the “snap test” performed at vets’ offices and shelters will come back positive. Even more sophisticated tests don’t do a good job of distinguishing between infected and vaccinated cats.

5. FIV is not contagious to humans or to other animals

While the feline immunodeficiency virus is related to the human AIDS virus, like all immunodeficiency viruses, it is species-specific. That means it can’t be spread to dogs, cows, goats, monkeys, people, or any other type of animals.

Despite decades of experience, many vets and shelters still advise against housing FIV-positive and FIV-negative cats together. I hope that the new study will help vets to get the facts on FIV transmission, and I hope that the word trickles down to shelters, so they won’t list FIV-positive cats as “must be an only cat” or “must live with other FIV+ cats.” The less we treat FIVers like lepers, the more likely it is that they’ll find good, loving homes.

Just like any other shelter cats, all that FIV-positive kitties want is a home to call their own. Photo CC-BY Andesine via Flickr

What do you think? Do FIV-positive and FIV-negative cats live together in your home? Have you had an FIV-positive cat who lived a long, healthy life? Or do you think it’s a better idea that FIV-positive and FIV-negative cats not share a home? If so, why? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.

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