5 Things You Need to Know Before Adopting an FIV Cat
Are You Considering Adopting an FIV Cat?
So you’re planning to adopt an FIV cat? That’s great! FIV cats are often overlooked (and euthanized) simply because not a lot of people understand what FIV really is. In addition, plenty of false information about FIV is circulating around the animal community and it’s causing perfectly adoptable felines to miss out on the opportunity of finding a loving forever home.
However, while it’s true that FIV cats aren’t that different from their non-FIV counterparts, it’s very important that future FIV cat parents know what they’re in for once they decide to add an FIV cat to their family.
Adoption is a commitment, so you need to be 100% sure that you’ll be able to care for the cat no matter what happens. Sure, many FIV cats are able to live comfortably for years without showing signs of illness, but that’s not always the case—it’s different with every cat so it’s best to be prepared. With that said, here are 5 things you need to know before dropping by the nearest animal shelter and adopting an FIV cat:
FIV Cats Should Only Live Indoors
It’s strongly recommended that FIV cats stay strictly indoors, not only to prevent them from spreading the virus to other cats but also to keep them safe from harmful pathogens lurking outdoors. Since FIV cats have weaker immune systems, they’re prone to contracting diseases and infections from sick outdoor animals, as well as contaminated surfaces and objects.
As an FIV cat parent, you can maintain their quality of life through indoor enrichment. That means investing in mentally and physically stimulating toys (electronic/interactive cat toys, puzzle toys, chew toys, catnip toys) and cat furniture (cat trees, scratching posts, cat bridges/shelves). If you can, try to widen their safe space by building an outdoor enclosure or “catio”.
The goal is to allow your feline friend to do regular cat things (playing, running, climbing, scratching, exploring), but within a secure area. Whether or not your cat has FIV, providing them with enough stimulation will not only improve their overall health and well-being but also help curb negative behavior.
FIV Cats Need to Be Spayed or Neutered
Aside from creating a comfortable and stimulating indoor environment for your FIV cat, you should also get them spayed or neutered if they aren’t already, especially if you have other cats. FIV spreads through sexual contact and deep bite wounds—both of which have a higher chance of occurring if you have an intact cat.
Fixed cats no longer have the desire to mate, and neutered male cats in particular, are less likely pick fights with other cats. In addition, spayed and neutered cats are at a reduced risk of developing reproductive system issues (ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, urinary tract infection).
FIV Cats Should Have a Healthy Lifestyle
Lifestyle has a huge impact on health. People who want to stay in tip-top shape and have an immune system that’s strong enough to ward off disease-causing pathogens have to eat right and exercise regularly. The same goes for animals, especially immunocompromised FIV cats.
For FIV cats, a healthy lifestyle means eating only high-quality, nutritionally balanced cat food, getting sufficient daily exercise (at least 30 minutes daily), drinking enough water, and taking immune-boosting supplements if needed.
It’s also best to note that raw foods (meat, eggs) are a huge no-no for FIV cats since they may contain bacteria or parasites that can make them very sick. If you’re not sure which brand of cat food to get, ask your veterinarian for recommendations. They can help you choose one that’s both safe and nutritious.
FIV Cats Must Be Monitored Carefully
Because of their suppressed immune function, FIV cats may sometimes get sick or develop an infection seemingly out of nowhere. Dental issues, such as stomatitis (inflammation of the mouth) or gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), for instance are common in FIV cats. If not caught in time, minor complications like these can worsen and lead to more serious health concerns.
This is where daily monitoring comes in. Once you adopt an FIV cat, make sure that you pay attention to changes in their appearance or behavior—no matter how small. Check their skin for any cuts, wounds, pus, or bald spots; their body for any sore or tender areas; and their mouth for redness and inflammation.
Another way to tell whether or not your FIV cat is sick is by observing their eating habits and activity levels. Are they less interested in their food? Are they struggling to chew? Are they sleeping more than usual? If you notice anything suspicious, bring them to the vet right away.
FIV Cats Should See the Vet Regularly
When it comes to disease prevention, routine vet visits are very important. Once you’re an official FIV cat owner, it’s recommended that you take your feline friend to the vet at least twice a year.
Through a series of physical examinations and lab tests, your veterinarian can help you identify signs of disease that you may have missed and catch developing illnesses early. This allows you to get your cat treated right away if necessary, and prevents costlier health concerns in the future.