Owning an FIV+ Cat

WHAT IS FIV?

curled cat“FIV” stands for “feline immunodeficiency virus” just as “HIV” stands for “human immunodeficiency virus.” In fact, these two viruses are closely related and much of the general information that has become common knowledge for HIV also holds true for FIV. FIV is a virus that causes AIDS in cats; however, there is a long asymptomatic period before AIDS occurs and our job is to prolong this asymptomatic period. The average life expectancy from the time of diagnosis for FIV is 5 years. Humans cannot be infected with FIV; FIV is a “cats-only” infection.

For a lengthy description of this virus and an FAQ, we recommend the Cornell Feline Health Center Web site at:

www.vet.cornell.edu/fhc/brochures/fiv.html

Also helpful is the American Association of Feline Practitioners sponsored site at:

www.fivtest.com/aboutFIV/index.cfm

HOW IS DIAGNOSIS MADE?

Most of the time FIV infection is discovered using a screening test performed in your vet’s office or on a blood panel run at your veterinarian’s reference laboratory. Once a cat has been identified as positive by a screening test, a follow-up confirming test called a “Western Blot” test is the next step. Once this test is positive, the cat is considered to be truly infected.

It should be noted that administration of the new vaccine recently released for commercial use will cause a cat to test positive on both of the above tests. We do not currently do have a test that will distinguish a vaccinated cat from a truly positive cat.

Our hospital is not currently recommending this vaccine. Click here to read why not.

cat with yarn

HOW DID MY CAT GET INFECTED?

The major route of virus transmission is by the deep bite wounds that occur during fighting. There are other means of spreading the virus but they are less common. Mother cats cannot readily infect their kittens (except in the initial stages of infection). FIV can be transmitted sexually and via improperly screened blood transfusions. Casual contact such as sharing food bowls, or snuggling is very unlikely to be associated with transmission.

Isolation of an FIV+ cat is not necessary in a stable household
unless the FIV+ cat is likely to fight with the other residents.

WHAT DO I DO NOW?

Some lifestyle changes will probably be needed now that you know you have an FIV+ cat.

KEEP YOUR CAT INDOORS ONLY

cat in treeNow that you know your cat has an infectious disease, the responsible thing is to prevent the spread of this disease in your community. This means that your cat will need to begin life as an indoor cat. Cats who are used to living outdoors will make a fuss about being allowed outside. It is crucial that you do not give in as this will simply reinforce the crying and fussing. If you just allow the fussing to run its course, it will cease and the cat will get used to its new indoor only life.

Cats who are inclined to slip past people entering the home when the door is open can be managed by leaving them in a closed room when someone is out of the house. This way, when the person arrives home, the cat does not have access to the front door.

  • NO RAW FOODS
    There are currently numerous fad diets involving raw foods for pets. It is crucial that one not succumb to these popular recommendations when it comes to the FIV+ cat. Uncooked foods, meats especially, can include parasites and pathogens that a cat with a normal immune system might be able to handle but an FIV+ cat might not. Stick to the major reputable cat food brands.
     
  • VACCINATION
    Vaccination should be continued for these cats just as they are for other cats. Some experts recommend using only killed vaccines to avoid any possible reversion to virulence of the live vaccine virus strains. This has not panned out as a problem in reality plus the killed vaccines have been associated with vaccine-associated fibrosarcomas, an additional problem an FIV+ cat does not need. We still recommend live virus vaccines for FIV+ cats just as we do for FIV- cats.
     
  • PARASITE CONTROL
    The last thing an FIV+ cat needs is fleas, worms or mites, especially now that he is going to be an indoor cat. There are numerous effective products on the market for parasite control. Consult with your vet about which parasites you should be especially concerned with and which product is right for you.

Advantage new cats over 9

Frontline for cats

Program Injectable

http://advantage.petparents.com

www.frontline.com

www.program.novartis.us

Revolution Cats 6 pack

Vectra for cats

www.revolutionpet.com

www.summitvetpharm.com

THE FELINE IMMUNODEFICIENCY VIRUS IS
NOT TRANSMISSIBLE TO HUMANS IN ANY WAY.

WHAT ABOUT MEDICATIONS USED IN HIV+ HUMANS?

AZT (brand name Retrovir®) is a prominent antiviral medication for the treatment of human HIV infection. Tests in FIV+ cats indicate that those with either neurologic signs or with stomatitis (oral inflammation) may benefit most. At this time at least (in cats), AZT seems to be something to save for when symptoms of viral infection appear. There are some bone marrow issues with red blood production and some periodic monitoring tests are advisable. If problems arise, fortunately, they are reversible and should resolve with a few days of discontinuing medication.

Drugs other than AZT seem to have more potential for toxicity and are not recommended for feline use.

THE IMMUNE-SUPPRESSED OWNER

Immune-suppressed cats and immune-suppressed owners do not mix well. Those who are immune suppressed, be they human or non-human, are inclined to become infected with opportunistic organisms and in turn shed larger numbers of those organisms than one might naturally come into contact with in the environment. This means that someone who is immune-suppressed (human or not) can serve as an amplifier for infectious agents. An immune-suppressed cat can increase an immune-suppressed human’s exposure to infectious agents and vice versa. This is obviously not a good situation. The same is true for multiple immune-suppressed cats living together. If possible, there should be only one immune-suppressed individual per home.

If you have further questions on the FIV virus,
do not hesitate to use the eMail function below,
or ask your regular veterinarian.

We recommend this link for HIV+ individuals concerned about pet to human disease transimision.

www.thebody.com/content/art4914.html

Page last updated: 10/1/2011