What Is FIV?

Feline Immunodificiency Virus, or FIV, is a disease similar to HIV in humans, which infects all felines, including household pet cats. FIV is NOT contagious to humans, like HIV is not contagious to cats.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, or FIV, is a disease that affects all felines, from lions to cheetahs to household cats. FIV belongs to the same viral family as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), but FIV is only contagious to cats, as HIV is only contagious to humans. Cats seem to have adapted much better to the FIV virus than humans have to HIV, and thus FIV+ cats can live better and longer than HIV+ humans. FIV is similar to HIV in the ways that it affects its host, infecting the lymph nodes and blocking production of white blood cells, the cells that fight infection in the body. However, FIV does not lead to another worse disease in cats, as HIV develops into AIDS in human. Cats infected with FIV can live a long life with lots of medical care.

The highest levels of FIV are in the saliva of the infected cat, and the disease is passed primarily through biting. It may also be possible for cats to pass FIV through mutual grooming. FIV is not very communicable otherwise, so it is possible for FIV+ cats to live in a home with other cats who are not infected without passing FIV to them. Cats do not salivate much while drinking, so it is safe for an FIV+ cat to share drinking bowls with other cats. The cats in the home would require active monitoring, but as long as no fights arose and the cats were not allowed to groom one another, the non-infected cats would be safe.

FIV, like HIV, does not kill its host, but leads to secondary infections. The symptoms of FIV widely vary, and sometimes in the beginning of the infection, no symptoms appear at all. The most common illnesses stemming from FIV are urinary bladder and upper respiratory infections. White blood cells must constantly fight infection in these areas in a healthy cat, so these two areas are the first affected by the decrease. Gingivitis, diarrhea, weight loss, heart problems, neurological breakdown, and parasitic infections also can be some of the first signs of FIV.

At this time, there is no cure for FIV. Veterinarians treat the secondary symptoms of FIV with antibiotics and other medicines and this seems to be an effective therapy method. FIV infected cats that receive medical treatment usually live full and relatively healthy lives. If you think your cat may be infected with FIV, you should take it immediately to the veterinarian to be tested. The sooner an infected cat receives treatment the better their chances of withstanding further infections become.

There are no vaccines for FIV, but there are several things you can do to prevent your cat from contracting FIV. Keeping your cat indoors severely decreases the risk because it prevents your cat from fighting. If your cat does go outdoors, try to keep it in a limited area, where it will not come in contact with strange cats. Testing your cats for FIV is very important if they have ever been allowed outside and especially if you have more than one cat.

If your cat does have FIV, the first step is making them an indoors-only cat. Outside, they can easily contract infections that their bodies cannot fight off and they pose the risk of infecting other cats. Routine meals with well-balanced nutritious food and clean toys, beds, and bowls will also help prevent infection.

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