Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
How can I keep my cat from becoming infected?
The only sure way to protect cats is to prevent their exposure to the virus.
Cat bites are the major way infection is transmitted, so keeping cats
indoors-and away from potentially infected cats that might bite them-markedly
reduces their likelihood of contracting FIV infection. For the safety of the
resident cats, only infection-free cats should be adopted into a household with
Vaccines to help protect against FIV infection
are now available. However, not all vaccinated cats will be protected by the
vaccine, so preventing exposure will remain important, even for vaccinated
pets. In addition, vaccination may have an impact on future FIV test results.
It is important that you discuss the advantages and disadvantages of
vaccination with your veterinarian to help you decide whether FIV vaccines
should be administered to your cat.
I just discovered that one of my cats has FIV,
yet I have other cats as well. What do I do now?
Unfortunately, many FIV-infected cats are not diagnosed until after they have
lived for years with other cats. In such cases, all the other cats in the
household should be tested, as well. Ideally, all infected cats should be
separated from the noninfected ones to eliminate the potential for FIV
transmission. If this is not possible-and if fighting or rough play is not
taking place-the risk to the non-infected cats appears to be low.
How should FIV-infected cats be managed?
- FIV-infected cats should be confined
indoors to prevent spread of FIV infection to other cats in the
neighborhood and to reduce their exposure to infectious agents carried by
- FIV-infected cats should be spayed or
- They should be fed nutritionally complete
and balanced diets.
- Uncooked food, such as raw meat and eggs,
and unpasteurized dairy products should not be fed to FIV-infected cats
because the risk of food-borne bacterial and parasitic infections is much
higher in immunosuppressed cats.
- Wellness visits for FIV-infected cats
should be scheduled with your veterinarian at least every six months.
Although a detailed physical examination of all body systems will be
performed, your veterinarian will pay special attention to the health of
the gums, eyes, skin, and lymph nodes. Your cat's weight will be measured
accurately and recorded, because weight loss is often the first sign of
deterioration. A complete blood count, serum biochemical analysis, and a
urine analysis should be performed annually.
- Vigilance and close monitoring of the
health and behavior of FIV-infected cats is even more important than it is
for uninfected cats. Alert your veterinarian to any changes in your cat's
health as soon as possible.
- There is no evidence from controlled scientific
studies to show that immunomodulator, alternative, or antiviral
medications have any positive benefits on the health or longevity of
healthy FIV-infected cats. However, some antiviral therapies have been
shown to benefit some FIV-infected cats with seizures or stomatitis.
How long can I expect my
FIV-infected cat to live?
It is impossible to accurately predict the life expectancy of a cat infected
with FIV. With appropriate care and under ideal conditions, many infected cats
will remain in apparent good health for many months or years. If your cat has
already had one or more severe illnesses as a result of FIV infection, or if
persistent fever and weight loss are present, a much shorter survival time can
My FIV-infected cat died recently after a long
illness. How should I clean my home before bringing in a new cat?
Feline immunodeficiency virus will not survive outside the cat for more than a
few hours in most environments. However, FIV-infected cats are frequently
infected with other infectious agents that may pose some threat to a newcomer.
Thoroughly clean and disinfect or replace food and water dishes, bedding,
litter pans, and toys. A dilute solution of household bleach (four ounces of
bleach in 1 gallon of water) makes an excellent disinfectant. Vacuum carpets
and mop floors with an appropriate cleanser. Any new cats or kittens should be
properly vaccinated against other infectious agents before entering the
Can I become infected with FIV?
Although FIV is a lentivirus similar to HIV (the human immunodeficiency virus)
and causes a disease in cats similar to AIDS (acquired immune deficiency
syndrome) in humans, it is a highly species-specific virus that infects only
A number of studies have failed to show any
evidence that FIV can infect or cause disease in people.
Why should I have my cat tested?
Early detection will help you maintain the health
of your own cat and also allow you to prevent spreading infection to other
Under what circumstances should FIV testing be
- If your cat has never been tested.
- If your cat is sick, even if it tested free
of infection in the past but subsequent exposure can't be ruled out.
- When cats are newly adopted, whether or not
they will be entering a household with other cats.
- If your cat has recently been exposed to an
- If your cat is exposed to cats that may be
infected (for example, if your cat goes outdoors unsupervised or lives
with other cats that might be infected). Your veterinarian may suggest
testing periodically (yearly) as long as your cat is exposed to
potentially infected cats.
- If you're considering vaccinating with an
Information provided by
American Association of Feline Practitioners and the Cornell Feline Health
Center, Cornell University, College of Veterinary Medicine