Happy Wednesday to my followers out there! This post is slightly different as this weeks “let’s talk” topic is FIV. Since volunteering at the Cats Protection I have not only learnt that FIV is a thing, but just how common it also is. In this post we’ll be exploring the myths and truths behind FIV, and you’ll be introduced to the lovely Victor, who is an FIV carrier and currently in our care. You can visit Victors official adoption page here.
This is the lovely Victor, or as I call him; Lord Victor of the Manor. He’s a loving boy, who’s content with plenty of cuddles and love. He’s quite talkative, especially around feeding time! He also carries FIV. Although at first he can be shy, when the trust and bond is built, Victor is a friend for life. Victor would be suited towards a mature and quiet home, and cannot be homed to the CH46 area of the Wirral (for my English followers out there). Victor came into the Cats Protection’s care after being a stray and has sadly contracted FIV, but what does this mean for Victors new family?
(Photos captured and credited to myself)
(Photos captured and credited to Tom Leach in collaboration with Cats Protection Wrexham Adoption Centre).
|Can live with mature family||Yes|
|Access to Outside||No|
(Information about Victor sourced from the Cats Protection’s official website).
What is FIV?
FIV is the equivalent of HIV, however only within cats. The official name is Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. However, this is not to be confused with FeLV, which is Feline Leukaemia. FIV can take years to progress and produce symptoms. Similar to HIV, FIV attacks and reduces the carriers number of white blood cells, making it harder for those infected to fight off and deal with infections. Note: FIV is NOT feline aids. FIV rarely ever develops enough to become full blown feline aids, therefore, is less detrimental.
Can an FIV cat go outside?
Not particularly. Although it is a cats natural instinct to explore and roam outside, FIV+ cats cannot go outside with other cats, where risks can present itself. An enclosed garden with no possible means of escape is perfect for FIV cats to still get a taste of the outside world! Letting FIV+ cats outside properly, or mixing them with cats not carrying the virus can have detrimental effects if not monitored, as it can transfer to other cats who they come into contact with. FIV cats can live with those not carrying the virus and even play, lick, cuddle, share litter trays etc, as it is virtually impossible for the virus to be transferred this way. However, before making such a move, to check on the individual preferences of the cats you’d aim to home together, and a discussion with the shelter the cat will be adopted from is a must.
Can it be transferred to other animals?
Yes. But only other cats. FIV cannot be transferred to those who are not feline. Dogs, and other animals are safe to live with FIV+ cats. However, this is obviously down to the personality of the cat whether they could live with other animals or not. Cats with FIV can live with other FIV cats within the same household though.
How is it transferred?
Similar to HIV, fluids such as saliva and blood carry the FIV virus. Feral cats who often go hungry and fight over food are the most likely receivers and carriers of the FIV virus, due to fighting, and saliva being injected directly into the blood stream via biting. The virus itself isn’t as easy to transmit as is believed. The time that the virus can exist in open air is actually rather short too. Most common transmissions of the FIV virus are through severe bites and sexual contact. On rare occasions FIV virus’ can be transmitted through a mother to her young via ingestion of infected milk or birth canal passage, however, this is much rarer than originally thought to be.
Can humans get it?
No. FIV is exclusive to felines only. Even if you are scratched by a FIV cat there is nothing to worry about. So FIV+ cats can still make great pets for children and adults alike!
Will it cost more in vet bills?
FIV is a rather slow virus, so it can take many years before a decline in health begins to occur and symptoms present themselves. Vet bills are roughly the same with the odd exception if a secondary infection is contracted, which can become more of a risk after courses of injections and boosters. However, any cat may become ill and need medication, so the only greater risk in my opinion is that it may cost slightly more in terms of medication due to the longer recovery time of an FIV, and dental problems such as stomatitis.
Will my cat live an unhappy and unhealthy life?
Not at all! Although the immune system for an FIV+ cat is lower, a fulfilled, happy and healthy life is still undoubtedly achievable. Secondary infections can sometimes occur, but this is not a commonality. These are not life threatening and even felines not carrying the FIV virus, with healthy immune systems can easily catch such infections and conditions.
What is the average life span of an FIV cat?
Life spans of an FIV cat are on average almost the same as those who are not carriers. It does very depending on individuals, however, even if slightly shorter, it is not uncommon to find FIV+ cats living to 15+ years old.
How is FIV diagnosed?
Signs of FIV can often present themselves years after the virus is contracted, so in order to diagnose, blood tests are essentially the only way. The most common is formally known as an ELISA test, however commonly known as a SNAP test. This can be completed by veterinarian, or adoption centres such as the Cats Protection, if the cat is in their care at the time of testing. A SNAP test takes blood from the cat in question and searches for antibodies to FIV. Antibodies are made by infected felines body’s in response to being infected. Results are dependent on the individual as some cats can test positive from 2-4 weeks of infection, however, it should not take any longer than 8 weeks after suspected infection to receive an accurate result.
How is FIV treated?
Sadly, there is no treatment as such for FIV specifically. Although, there are measures owners can take to aid cats in prolonging their healthy life span. Medication for any secondary infections contracted is a must, as due to a decreased number of white blood cells, the felines immune system will not be able to fight off such infections on their own. Parasitic control such as, flea and worming control is advisable for every feline, especially those who are carriers of FIV.
How do I know my cat has FIV?
Symptoms that can be displayed in FIV+ cats are as follows;
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Weight loss
- Disheveled coat
- Poor appetite
- Abnormal appearance or inflammation of the eye (conjunctivitis)
- Inflammation of the gums (gingivitis)
- Inflammation of the mouth (stomatitis)
- Dental disease
- Skin redness or hair loss
- Wounds that don’t heal
- Discharge from eyes or nose
- Frequent urination, straining to urinate or urinating outside of litter box
- Behaviour change
(Sourced from pets.webmd).
However, without official tests being carried out, FIV cannot be officially diagnosed. If you suspect your cat, or a cat you have come into contact with has contracted FIV, contact your local vet immediately.
Disclaimer: Victor is currently available for adoption from Cats Protection within the Wrexham area. However, if visiting this article at a later date, may have already been rehomed, all information within this article is relevant at time of publishing. Information about FIV is deemed to be accurate, however should reassure, not deter those looking to adopt a cat with FIV. Any further questions or worries related to FIV, “Support FIV” on Facebook are always open to discussing and debunking FIV myths, you can contact them here.
Were you aware FIV existed? Do you have any more questions, or even experiences yourself with an FIV+ cat? I’d love to hear below!
As always, with love from Erin, Victor, and Wrexham adoption centre’s furry friends. x