Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

What is Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)?

FIV is a viral infection of cats. It is from the same family of viruses as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), the cause of AIDS in humans. FIV is NOT contagious to humans, and HIV is not contagious to cats. FIV is such an important virus because 14% to 29% of cats are reported to be infected throughout Australia and it causes a potentially fatal disease.

How do cats become infected?

Cats become infected with FIV mainly via bite wounds when fighting. When pregnant, infected cats can pass the virus to their kittens whilst they are still developing in the uterus. Once infected with the virus, cats carry it around in their blood stream for the rest of their life.

What are the signs of FIV?

Cats infected with FIV will show varying symptoms. Some cats will not show any symptoms for several years, but as the immune system becomes weaker over time some common signs of infection include.

  • weight loss
  • poor quality coat
  • ulcers around mouth, lips and gums
  • loss of appetite
  • lethargy

What can be done to prevent / treat FIV?

Prevention of FIV is based around 2 major factors.

1. Limiting exposure to FIV positive cats – cats remaining indoors or in a protective enclosure to make sure there is no intermingling with intruders. If any new additions to the family, it is recommended they are tested prior to joining other cats.
2. Vaccination – recently a vaccine has been produced that is an effective aid in providing protection against FIV. Kittens can be vaccinated from the age of 8 weeks, and require 3 doses initially, then 1 dose each year with their regular vaccinations. Adult cats require the same 3 doses initially, then continue with yearly boosters. Testing adult cats prior to vaccination is recommended. The vaccine has no effect on prior infection with FIV, it helps prevent infection, it does not treat it.

There is no cure for FIV, so prevention is the only way to combat this virus.