The Truth About FIV

It is important to realize that a positive test for FIV is not a mandatory death sentence. With a high protein diet and aggressive treatment of secondary infections, an FIV-positive cat can lead a reasonably normal life span. Dr. Mike Richards says, "Feline immundeficiency virus infection does not lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome in cats as often as human immunodeficiency virus leads to AIDS in people." The largest threat to FIV-positive cats is secondary infections, such as bladder, skin, and upper respiratory infections. Kidney failure is also frequently seen in cats with FIV. These secondary infections should be treated promptly and aggressively in any cat, but especially with an FIV cat.

Myth #1: The FIV test is reliable
Fact: 20 % of positive results are just test errors. The error rate for kittens is even higher. Thousands of cats are killed daily because of test errors!

Myth #2: The FIV test shows the existence of the FIV virus.
Fact: It measures nothing but antibodies which are microscopic organisms that fight the virus.

Myth #3: Kittens that test positive for FIV will always test positive for FIV.
Fact: Infected mothers rarely, if ever, pass the infection to their kittens. Kittens born to FIV positive mothers are at a low risk for the infection even though they may test positive at first because of the presence of the maternal antibodies.

Myth #4: Cats who have the virus will eventually develop the disease and die from it.
Fact: 90% of cats who actually have the actual FIV virus will lead completely normal lives.

Myth #5: FIV + cats will lead short, miserable lives.
Fact: FIV+ cats can and DO live long, healthy lives, if given a chance. Most live as long as their indoor counterparts and much longer than outdoor cats. Many live well into old age without ever having symptoms.

Myth #6: The FIV virus is a serious threat to other animals because it can be transmitted by casual contact.
Fact: Modern medical research has show that transmission requires serious physical interaction. Deep bite wounds seem to be the primary mode of the virus transmission.

The virus can only live a few seconds outside the body, so sharing food and water bowls is not an issue. Studies show that FIV+ cats living in a multi cat home do not appear to spread the disease as long as all the cats in the household have a stable social structure where housemates do not fight.

If your cat has been diagnosed as FIV-positive, you'll want to work very closely with your veterinarian in designing a management program. For cats with no other symptoms, and otherwise generally good health, this might simply be a matter of ensuring he gets a sound diet, possibly with added vitamins, anti-oxidants, and Omega 3/ Omega 6 fatty acids, as well as prompt, aggressive treatment of infections and other conditions as they crop up. Even flea control is important, as fleas transmit a number of other parasites such as Bartonella. Also, flea bites themselves can become infected, which would be a cause for concern.

Consider opening your heart and home to an FIV positive cat.