How to Protect Your FIV Cat from Opportunistic Infections
Most FIV cats are capable of living normal, healthy lives for years. However, since their immune function isn’t as strong as it was during their pre-FIV days, a few preventative measures will need to be put in place to make sure they stay in good condition. Without these extra steps, FIV cats can fall victim to disease-causing pathogens and develop opportunistic infections.
What are Opportunistic Infections?
Opportunistic infections are infections that usually develop in humans or animals that have weakened immune systems. These infections are caused by pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi, that are normally present in the environment but can easily be warded off by a healthy immune system.
They’re called opportunistic because they take advantage of cases where a human or an animal is vulnerable to pathogenic invasion due to existing illness or medical conditions, like FIV. However, with the right routines, opportunistic infections can be easily prevented. Check out the list we have below and make sure that your FIV cat stays protected from opportunistic infections!
Keep Your FIV Cat Indoors
The first step to making sure your FIV cat is safe from opportunistic infections is to keep them indoors. Believe it or not, but indoor-only cats—whether or not they have FIV—are found to live much longer than those that go outside. This is because free-roaming cats are more likely to come into contact with sick animals, as well as disease-carrying insects, like flies and mosquitoes. They’re also at a higher risk of getting into cat fights, accidentally injuring themselves, being hit by speeding vehicles, and ingesting poisonous substances and plants.
If you’re used to letting your FIV cat roam outside, then you may feel hesitant to make changes. It’s completely understandable. Taking that freedom away from your feline friend can seem extreme. However, as long as you provide them with enough environmental enrichment indoors, like cat trees, scratchers, and toys, they’ll stay happy and content.
Clean and Disinfect Your Home Daily
Another thing to remember is to regularly clean and disinfect the household and everything in it, including your FIV cat’s belongings and indoor space. Disease-causing pathogens may be more abundant outdoors, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make their way indoors.
As you and other family members go in and out of the house, you can carry all sorts of microorganisms on your shoes, clothing, and hands without you knowing. The opening and closing of doors and windows also allow pathogen-infested insects, such as flies, cockroaches, and mosquitoes, to enter your home. Additionally, molds can grow in high-moisture areas and items, such as the bathroom floors, kitchen counters, water bowls, and chew toys.
To prevent the spread and accumulation of dangerous pathogens indoors, make sure to do daily cleaning and weekly disinfection. Wash your FIV cat’s beddings, toys, blankets, and litter box with detergent soap and warm water regularly. Make it a habit to scoop the litter box daily and scrub your cat’s food and water bowl before every use.
Monitor and Maintain Your FIV Cat’s Dental Health
When it comes to protecting your FIV cat from opportunistic infections, we can’t forget about dental health. FIV cats are prone to developing dental issues, like gingivitis, periodontitis, and stomatitis, due to bacterial plaque so it’s best to keep their mouth and teeth clean at all times. If you’re interested in learning about the common dental problems in FIV cats and how to prevent them, you can check out this article.
If you haven’t already, you can get an at-home dental kit from the pet supply store or online and brush your FIV cat’s teeth daily. However, if your cat isn’t too keen on letting you do so, then a teeth-cleaning chew toy or stick might help. You can slowly build your cat’s tolerance by touching their teeth through the side of their mouth every day. Once they get used to it, you can move on to opening their mouths and touching a tooth that’s farther inside. Do this until they allow you to use a toothbrush.
In addition to at-home teeth cleaning, it’s important to get your FIV cat’s teeth professionally cleaned by a vet once or twice a year. While you’re there, you can also ask your vet to do a physical exam to make sure that your feline friend doesn’t have any developing illnesses.
Invest in Flea Preventatives
Fleas are known to carry all sorts of harmful pathogens, like parasitic worms and bacteria. To make sure that your FIV cat is protected at all times, you can talk to your veterinarian about monthly flea preventatives. They come in different forms and can be administered orally, topically, or through injection. What’s more is that most of these medications aren’t just made to provide protection against fleas but also flies, ticks, mosquitoes, lice, and parasitic worms.
Clean Wounds Immediately
Since FIV cats are vulnerable to opportunistic infections, leaving a small scratch or open wound unsanitized and untreated can have severe consequences. Always check your FIV cat’s skin for any cuts or abrasions. You can do this while bathing them, grooming them, or while their lounging comfortably on your lap. Gently move your palms across their skin and feel for any bumps and abnormalities.
If you spot an area of broken skin, examine it immediately for redness, inflammation, or pus. Clean it using pet shampoo or soap and running water. If the wound seems irritated, you may need to ask your veterinarian for an antibiotic cream or ointment to help with the healing and prevent the infection from getting worse.
Feed Your FIV Cat a Nutritionally Balanced Diet
Even for us humans, diet can make or break our health, even more so for immunocompromised FIV cats. Feeding your FIV cat with high-quality, nutritionally balanced meals can help delay the degradation of their immune system and keep their body in tip-top shape. Avoid kibble-only diets since dry cat food doesn’t have enough moisture to keep them hydrated. Instead, alternate between the two or use kibbles as a topper on wet cat food. That way your FIV cat gets to enjoy the crunchiness of dry cat food while also getting the benefits of wet cat food.
Steer Clear of Raw Food
Cats are obligate carnivores and get the majority of their nutrients from meat sources. However, raw meat, as well as raw eggs, isn’t recommended for FIV cats. Uncooked foods can contain harmful bacteria, like Salmonella and E. Coli, that can cause digestive issues and even poisoning. Since FIV cats already have a weakened defense system, they’re extra vulnerable to these pathogens.
Maintain Vet-Recommended Medications
If your veterinarian has prescribed medications to your FIV cat, make sure to follow their medication schedule to a T. These medications are made to support their immune function and prevent secondary diseases, as well as opportunistic infections.
To establish a routine and prevent yourself from forgetting to give your FIV cat their medications, give them at the same time every day. You can also set an alarm or keep the medications somewhere you can easily spot, like your bedside table.