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Adopting a cat with FIV and why it is important

What is FIV?

FIV is short for feline immunodeficiency virus, which is an infectious retroviral disease in cats. FIV is often mistakenly called “Feline AIDS,” or “Cat HIV,” resulting in panic in some adopters. Many questions and myths exist about FIV, commonly resulting in FIV+ cats waiting twice as long to find an adopter as our regular residents. FIV+ Cats can (and often do) live long, healthy lives, just like other non-infected cats, with just a few changes made to their routine and care.

What are the symptoms of FIV?

When the cat is first infected, it may run a fever or have swollen lymph nodes. Following that, cats may not show any symptoms of suppressed immune system for weeks, months, or years. In its most advanced stage, cats become more susceptible to outside forms of infection and disease. That is why itis important to have your cat seen by the vet if he or she is showing early signs of illness.

What are common health concerns for FIV+ Cats?

 As well as their increased risk fighting off viral infections, FIV+ cats are prone to common infections in the skin (often in patches of itchy missing hair), periodontal disease or gum inflammation, diarrhea, and urinary tract infections. These areas should receive attention on your regular veterinary checkups, and be counteracted with good diet.

How is FIV spread?

FIV is only spread through deep bite wounds from an infected cat, mating, or passed on genetically from mother to kittens. It is most often seen in unaltered, roaming male cats that enter into territory conflict with other males.

Can it infect me or my other pets?

 FIV is specific to felines, and cannot affect other species of animals. It can be spread, however, to other cats through mating or bite wounds (uncommon even with disgruntled cohabitants). It is not passed casually, as with Feline Leukemia. Transmission is uncommon in altered, inside felines.

How long do FIV+ cats typically live?

FIV has not been proven to cause a direct drop in life expectancy, and often live in the standard lifespan for cats kept indoors, 15-18 years of age. With regular vet visits, it is not uncommon to have such cats live longer!

What to Expect Owning an FIV+ Cat

Cats with FIV have a compromised immune system virus, so it is strongly recommended that FIV+ Cats remain as indoor cats. This helps to prevent their exposure to other viruses carried by wild cats, and reduces the chance that they may get into an accident that they will have a hard time recovering from. They should have clean, regulated environments much the same as any other cat.

While most cats go to the vet once-a-year, it is usually a good idea to make more frequent visits to your vet when owning an FIV+ cat. The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) recommends checkups at least twice-a-year. If you notice your FIV cat is acting under the weather, do not hesitate to take them for a checkup. Cats do not pass away from FIV, but if there is an underlying viral or bacterial infection, their body has a difficult time mounting a defense. Lots of FIV+ cats do not begin to show symptoms of a weakened immune system until late in life, when many cats’ immune systems naturally begin to slow down

Why should I adopt an FIV+ Cat?

 Adopting an FIV+ Cat can be a wonderful opportunity to give an otherwise down-and-out cat a chance at living in a loving home. In the early 90s, much less was known about FIV, and as a result some vets today that aren’t up-to-date on the latest information about the condition still prefer to euthanize all FIV+ cats based on outdated information. It was incorrectly thought for some time that there was a correlation between FIV and the deadly Feline Leukemia virus. We now know considerably more about FIV than those days, and the AAFP does not suggest euthanasia for FIV+ cats. Despite how scary FIV may sound, these cats can and deserve to live a normal, happy, affection filled lives! 

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