5 Reasons Why FIV Isn’t a Death Sentence for Cats
Reason # 1: FIV Isn’t a Deadly Disease
Hearing that a cat has the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus can be frightening, especially if you don’t know a lot about it. The fact that it’s a virus in the same classification as the notoriously famous Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV, and sometimes even referred to as Feline AIDS, only makes matters worse. FIV-positive cats in animal shelters are being put to sleep because of all the misconceptions surrounding the disease when, in reality, FIV isn’t as scary as it’s made out to be. FIV isn’t deadly, and it shouldn’t equal a death sentence for cats.
What FIV does is attack an infected cat’s white blood cells, weakening their immune system. That means FIV-positive cats are more prone to getting sick, so they’ll need to live a healthy lifestyle. But then, a healthy lifestyle is something all cats need to thrive, isn’t it? Without proper care and nutrition, any cat—FIV-positive or not—can develop an illness. In fact, a nationwide study in Canada found that there was no significant difference between the lifespan of FIV-positive and FIV-negative cats. So, the truth is, although FIV is contagious among cats, it typically doesn’t come with life-threatening effects.
Reason # 2: FIV Isn’t Easily Transmitted
One of the main reasons why FIV-positive cats used to be at the very top of the euthanasia list is because people thought, like with other viral diseases, FIV would spread around the community and shelters like wildfire. We say ‘used to’ because years of research finally proved that FIV isn’t as easily transmissible as most initially believed, and protocols in animal shelters are starting to become more FIV-friendly.
We now know that FIV is mostly only transmitted through deep bite wounds and blood transfusions. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not likely that FIV-positive mother cats will transmit the virus to their kittens in utero. When tested, these kittens will test false-positive for FIV. Kittens below eight months can still have their FIV-positive mother cat’s maternal antibodies, which can cause them to temporarily get positive test results. Once retested, most kittens are found to be FIV-free.
For FIV-positive adult cats, spaying or neutering is very important. Since fixed cats are less likely to show aggression, they’ll also be less inclined to engage in catfights and infect other cats. Many fixed FIV-positive cats can live peacefully with non-FIV cats for years—sharing food bowls and litter boxes, grooming each other and playing together—without ever spreading the virus.
Reason # 3: FIV Isn’t a Threat to Humans
Yes, the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) are in the same class of virus. Both of them are lentiviruses. However, both are also species-specific. That means FIV can only infect cats and HIV can only affect humans. The virus is no threat to humans at all, and there’s no reason to fear it.
Reason # 4: FIV-Positive Cats Rarely Show Symptoms
Like we mentioned in reason number three above, FIV is a lentivirus. In Latin, Lenti means slow, and the reason for that is because FIV is a slow-acting virus that has an incredibly long-incubation period. So long, in fact, that it can take years for symptoms to start showing. Within that period, FIV-positive cats usually live normal, healthy lives. Most of them live out their entire lives without ever showing signs of an FIV infection and typically live just as long, if not longer, than their non-FIV counterparts.
Reason # 5: FIV-Positive Cats Are Just Like Other Cats
There’s actually no reason to shy away from FIV-positive cats. They’re just like any other cat and contrary to common belief, caring for them isn’t all that different from caring for non-FIV cats. There are no special diets or expensive therapy sessions, just preventative health care and proper nutrition—two things all pets need to stay in tip-top shape.
Like non-FIV cats, FIV-positive cats need enough daily exercise, regular vet visits, and a nutritionally complete diet to maintain good health. On top of that, they shouldn’t be allowed to consume dairy products nor be put on a vegan diet. However, that’s true for all cats. Once they stop nursing, most cats become lactose-intolerant, so eating dairy products could result in gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea, bloating and flatulence. Vegan-diets are also not good for cats—FIV-positive or not. Felines are obligate carnivores, and there are proteins and nutrients that they can only get from animal meat. If they don’t get enough of these proteins and nutrients, they can develop a plethora of health issues ranging from skin irritations to blindness.
Bottom line is, FIV-cat care isn’t so different from general cat care, so there’s no reason to run the other way once you see a cat labeled FIV-positive. If you’re looking to adopt a feline friend, why don’t you give an FIV-positive one a chance? If you feel like their personality is a good fit with yours, don’t let FIV get in the way! FIV-positive cats have so much love to give, and they’re just as deserving of a loving forever home as any other cat.