The Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, or FIV, is a slow-acting virus that causes a condition very similar to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, in humans. Both FIV and HIV are retroviruses. However, they’re species-specific and can’t be transmitted from feline to human or vice-versa. Like HIV, FIV destroys the white blood cells in the body of infected cats, weakening the immune system and preventing it from being able to effectively fend off diseases and infections. That means compared to cats without FIV, FIV-positive cats are more susceptible to developing health issues. Although, with proper care and nutrition, they can lead long, healthy and happy lives.
Feline Infectious Peritonitis, or FIP, is a viral disease caused by a very common virus known as the feline coronavirus. When cats contract the feline coronavirus, they usually show no outward signs of illness. However, if the virus mutates or if there’s an abnormal immune response, the infection can progress into FIP, which can be fatal.
There are two forms of FIP: wet and dry. In the wet form, fluid will accumulate in the infected cat’s abdominal or chest cavity (sometimes, both), leading to breathing difficulties and abdominal distention. In the dry form, inflammatory cells will clump together in various organs, and the symptoms that follow will depend on which organ is mostly affected.
FIV is mainly transmitted from one cat to another through deep bite wounds. That’s why unfixed cats, as well as those that go outside, are more likely to contract the disease. However, FIV isn’t as contagious as other viral diseases. FIV cannot spread through close contact, grooming, sharing of food bowls, or any other regular feline activities. As long as the cat is friendly and good-tempered, it’s pretty safe for them to live with other cats.
Similar to FIV, FIP isn’t considered to be highly contagious. During the acute stage of infection, sick cats can spread the virus through saliva and feces. In contrast to FIV, however, FIP is more common in indoor cats living under the same roof. That may be because outdoor cats normally bury their feces, while those in multi-cat households typically share litter boxes.
Signs And Symptoms
FIV doesn’t necessarily have a specific set of symptoms. Since the disease weakens the immune system and prevents the body from fighting harmful microorganisms, FIV-positive cats may experience recurrent infections (mouth infections, skin infections, urinary tract infections, upper respiratory tract infections, etc.) fever, loss of appetite, and lethargy. However, it’s also common for FIV-positive cats to show no signs of illness for several months or even years.
Symptoms of FIP depend on the form. In the wet form of FIP, symptoms include loss of appetite, dull coat, weight loss, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or the white portion of the eyes), and a swollen belly. In the dry form, issues that arise will depend on the affected organ. However, it may also present itself through symptoms that resemble the wet form of FIP: loss of appetite, dull coat, weight loss, and jaundice, but there will be no swollen belly.
There is no known cure for either FIV or FIP. Both diseases can only be managed through supportive care and high-quality nutrition. For cats with FIV, regular vet visits, a nutritionally balanced diet, and immune-boosting supplements are crucial to maintaining good health. Those with FIP, on the other hand, are usually given medications such as corticosteroids and antibiotics on top of a healthy diet and fluid therapy.
One of the best ways to prevent your cat from getting FIV is to keep them indoors and make sure they’re spayed or neutered. Allowing your cat to go outdoors increases their chances of getting bit by an FIV-positive cat. Instead, you can harness-train them so you can take them on supervised outdoor walks, or build an enclosed catio where your cat can safely enjoy the outside environment.
To prevent the spread of FIP in multi-cat households, it’s important to provide enough litter boxes for all the cats. Remove feces immediately, and regularly disinfect all the litter boxes with a diluted bleach mixture (1 part bleach, 30 parts water). You should also clean everything that the cats use on a daily basis, like toys, food bowls, and blankets, using soap and hot water.