Riley was living in farm country when he found a cool hangout in a friendly couples yard. They fed and loved on him for a while before realizing he would be a good candidate for rescue. He is a BIG boy. A solid lump of love. Riley has lived most of his life outside, to get comfortable he does need a little more patience and likely a forever home that will be on the quiet side.
Unfortunately, Riley has come up positive for FIV – Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. Although this virus does not have a cure, with good care and routine check ups, Riley should live a long, happy life and his adoption fee will reflect his special needs status.
What is FIV?
FIV stands for feline immunodeficiency virus. FIV typically causes a weakening of the cat’s immune system. It is the same class of virus as HIV (a lentivirus); however, only cats can get FIV. People and dogs cannot.
Cats who are infected with FIV may not show symptoms until years after the initial infection occurred. Although the virus is slow-acting, a cat’s immune system is severely weakened once the disease takes hold. This makes the cat susceptible to various secondary infections. Infected cats who receive supportive medical care and are kept in a stress-free, indoor environment can live relatively comfortable lives for years before the disease reaches its chronic stages. FIV-positive cats commonly have severe dental disease, which often means it is necessary to remove all their teeth.
Many people confuse FIV with feline leukemia virus (FeLV). Although these diseases are in the same retrovirus family and cause many similar secondary conditions FeLV and FIV are different diseases.
Symptoms of FIV
There are no specific signs of FIV infection. FIV-positive cats have a weaker immune system, so they are more prone to getting infections, such as upper respiratory infections, ringworm and dental disease. Other than that, FIV-positive cats tend to live normal lives and have a normal length of life.
The most common route of infection is a deep bite wound from an FIV-positive cat to another cat. It can also be transmitted via blood, in utero and from the milk of an infected mother cat. It is very rare for cats to get FIV just from being around infected cats, sharing food bowls, or from a person touching an FIV-positive cat and then touching an FIV-negative cat. Many FIV-positive cats and FIV-negative cats live together in the same home for years without spreading the virus to the non-infected cats.
FIV cannot be transmitted from cat to human, only from cat to cat.
How Is FIV Diagnosed?
FIV infection is routinely diagnosed by blood testing. The FIV status of every cat should be known. The most common type of test looks for the presence of antibodies to the virus in the blood. No test is 100-percent accurate all of the time, and your veterinarian will interpret the test result and determine whether further testing is needed to confirm either a positive or negative test result. Once a cat is determined to be FIV-positive, that cat is capable of transmitting the disease to other cats.
Since it is possible for an infected mother cat to transfer FIV antibodies to her kittens, these kittens may test positive from their mother’s antibodies until they have cleared them from their systems, which happens by six months of age. Therefore, kittens who test positive for FIV antibodies when they’re younger than six months should undergo antibody tests again at a later date to see if they are infected.
Unfortunately, there is no specific antiviral treatment for FIV. Cats can carry the virus for a long time before symptoms appear. Therefore, treatment focuses mainly on extending the asymptomatic period or, if symptoms have set in, on easing the secondary effects of the virus.
Without proper treatment, the secondary infections that can occur as a consequence of FIV can progress to life-threatening conditions. Additionally, cats with FIV can develop various forms of cancer, blood diseases or kidney failure, which will ultimately claim the cat’s life.
Your veterinarian may prescribe some of the following treatments:
Medication for secondary infections
Healthy, palatable diet to encourage good nutrition
Fluid and electrolyte replacement therapy
Caring for an FIV Infected cat
Keep your cat indoors. This will protect him from contact with disease-causing agents to which he may be susceptible. By bringing your cat indoors, you’re also protecting the uninfected cats in your community. Watch for changes-even seemingly minor-in your cat’s health and behavior. Immediately report any health concerns to your vet. Bring your cat to your vet at least twice per year for a wellness checkup, blood count and urine analysis. Feed your cat a nutritionally balanced food-no raw food diets, please, as bacteria and parasites in uncooked meat and eggs can be dangerous to immunocompromised pets. Be sure your cat is spayed or neutered.
Can FIV Be Prevented?
FIV vaccines are available but may not protect all cats. In addition, these vaccines can interfere with testing for the virus. It is best to work with your cat’s veterinarian to determine if FIV vaccination is the best option for your cat. Whether or not your cat is vaccinated, it is always important to prevent exposure to FIV. The best way to prevent your cat from contracting the virus is to keep him indoors, avoiding any chance of contact with infected felines. If you walk your cat, keep him on a leash when outdoors. And if your cat is going to be spending any time in a cattery or in a home with other felines, make sure all cats have tested negative for FIV.
Also, any recently adopted cat should be tested for FIV prior to entering your home.
Can cats with the virus have a good and long life?
Yes, FIV-positive cats can live normal lives, both in quality and duration. They just need to be monitored for infections and dental issues. But if they’re well cared for, they can be healthy, happy, wonderful pets.