Who wouldn’t take a big, friendly, gorgeous and sweet FIV-positive cat home?
This is what we at the EHS are waiting to find out. Not everyone is aware of what FIV really means, and it is important to have a discussion to help people comprehend the true nature of FIV and not the myths that confuse and scare people away from adopting an FIV cat.
FIV-positive cats are often considered un-adoptable, and are euthanized in many shelters. However, FIV-positive cats are in fact very adoptable, and can live the same lifespan as an FIV-negative cat. That is why many veterinarians, including the feline medicine experts at the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), suggest owners never opt for euthanasia based on a positive test alone.
So, why do some shelters still choose euthanasia as the first option for an FIV-positive cat?
The name itself is reminiscent of the human disease known as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), and evokes a fear reaction from people before they even understand what FIV means.
Is your family at risk if you adopt an FIV-positive cat?
The answer is no. Just as HIV affects only people, FIV is contractible by cats alone. Being FIV-positive means that the cat has antibodies that have been exposed to the virus, although it can take years, if ever, before the cat develops any FIV infection and clinical signs referred as Feline AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome of Cats). If a cat has FIV, it does not necessarily have Feline AIDS.
Is FIV the same as FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus)?
FIV and FeLV are both members of the retrovirus family, and their advanced infection symptoms are similar. However, FIV is more difficult to pass from one cat to another, and FeLV progresses much more rapidly. While they do have similarities, they are not the same virus.
One of the most damaging myths about FIV-Positive cats is that saliva can transfer the virus and therefore sharing the same water and food bowls and licking each other can cause the virus to pass from cat to cat. This is not true – the virus stay deep inside the cat’s mouth gums, so in fact, “FIV is mainly passed from cat to cat though deep bite wounds, the kind that usually occur outdoors during aggressive fights and territorial disputes, the perfect reason to keep your cat inside”, according to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). They also say it isn’t likely to be transmitted through saliva because, “the virus is very fragile, and does not live for long once outside the body – it is destroyed by drying, light, heat and basic detergents – normally the virus will be long-dead before any surfaces come to be cleaned, it is the initial drying that sees off the vast majority of the virus, and this will normally happen in seconds.”
Secondly, “the mucous membrane is a fairly effective barrier to the virus, so even if some virus does enter the cat’s mouth, it is very unlikely to cross the mucous membrane, so it will die inside the stomach. It has been suggested that, for the virus to actually infect a cat when taken in through the mouth, there would need to be ten thousand times as much virus present for it to achieve a cross infection” (www.fiv.com). The virus is also transmitted through semen, which means a kitten can be infected before, at, or after birth, or from nursing from a mother with the virus. Around a quarter to a third of kittens born to an infected mother are likely to be infected themselves.
How is FIV diagnosed?
FIV is diagnosed though a blood test that detects antibodies to the virus. The most common screen test is called the ELISA test (Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay). Tests can result in a false negative or positive, which may occur for a variety of reasons. Due to the false results that occur it is important to re-test a kitten within six months after the first test, as it can take up to eight weeks or longer for a cat to develop FIV antibodies. A kitten that has contracted its mother’s antibodies when tested may receive a false positive, or a cat that has recently been infected may receive a false negative. EHS tests each of our cats before arriving at the shelter, to determine if they have been exposed to FIV or FeLV.
What are some symptoms that occur in a cat that has FIV?
FIV reduces the cat’s immune system’s ability to respond to any infections due to the lower amount of white blood cells in the body. This means that many of the symptoms associated with FIV are due to other non-healing infections, which include gingivitis, stomatitis, poor appetite, weight loss, conjunctivitis, vomiting or diarrhea. Many bacterial infections will be treated with antibiotics or interferon. The effect of the antibiotics is usually temporary. The best way to manage an FIV cat is to use preventative care so that the cat can be as strong as possible before any of these symptoms manifest, and if they do arise, symptomatic treatment is usually the course of action.
How else can I help protect an FIV-positive cat?
Nutrition is important for all cats, FIV positive or not, along with limiting as best as you can their exposure to potential pathogens, which can extend an already long life. While the EHS promotes indoor living for cats, it is especially necessary for FIV cats to be kept indoors, where their immune system will be less exposed. An examination at the vet once a year is very important, and they will require blood and urine tests to monitor their immune system. Any infection should be treated immediately.
EHS hopes to share as much information as possible with the community regarding the Feline Immune Deficiency Virus and FIV-positive cats.
Why do we choose to do this?
Because we know all cats deserve a chance to have a family, and a happy, fulfilling life.
EHS hopes to share as much information as possible with the community regarding Feline immunodeficiency virus and FIV-positive cats.
FIV-positive cats are stigmatized, which means they are less likely to be adopted than FIV-negative cats, and we want to change that
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