Prevention

Prevention is always the best practice when it comes to protecting your pet.  The best ways to prevent an FIV infection are to keep your cat indoors, to vaccinate, to test new cats, and to spay and neuter.  Talk to your veterinarian today to discuss options for your own cat.

Shelters

There may be a higher prevalence of FIV-positive cats in animal shelters due to the fact that many have a feral background.  Pre-owned cats that have been relinquished to shelters seem to have a lower prevalence.  Some animal shelters that have communal cat rooms are more at risk for having an FIV outbreak.  Cats that are in crowded conditions are more likely to fight, and an animal with FIV could bite a healthy cat and pass on the virus.

Currently, there is much debate as to whether or not shelters should test their cats for FIV.  Shelters have felt a responsibility to test all cats for many years before adopting out an animal.  This was to ensure that only healthy cats were being placed for adoption and that the virus would be eliminated through the shelter’s practices.  Now, it is becoming more common to only test a cat that has symptoms supporting the disease.  For example, if a cat has a bite wound, is lethargic, or has dental problems, he or she would be recommended for testing.  FIV tests can produce false positives and infected cats that are spayed and neutered can live normal, happy lives, so the idea of testing every cat is changing.  For more information, visit the School of Veterinary Medicine where Dr. Schumacher discusses this change in shelters.

Multi-Cat Households

Typically, the risk of transmission is low in households.  This is due to the fact that cats in a stable social environment do not fight and bite each other, which is the primary form of transmission.  It is recommended that all cats living in one household are spayed and neutered, and new cats should be carefully introduced.  Cats that have been living comfortably in a space for a while may feel threatened when a new animal is introduced into their home, and this may result in fights.

Vaccinations

A vaccine has been created to prevent FIV in cats, however the level of protection that it provides may not be strong enough for those that are exposed to the virus.  Due to the undetermined effectiveness of the vaccine, the use of it is somewhat controversial and not all cats receive the vaccination.  That being said, you should discuss the advantages and disadvantages of vaccination with your veterinarian to decide what is best for your pet.  Keep in mind, a cat that is vaccinated for FIV will test positive for the disease, so it is important to have identification regarding your pet’s health status and history.

Keep Cats Indoors

Cats should be kept indoors to be 100% safe from encountering an FIV-positive cat.  Free-roaming male cats specifically, have the highest rate of transmission.  If your cat is allowed outdoors and comes in contact with an outdoor male, there is a chance that the male cat will feel territorial and try to bite your cat.  Free-roaming male cats that are intact also tend to be more aggressive in general.

If your cat loves the outdoors but you want to make sure they are safe, you can purchase an outdoor cat tent or cat house.  These outdoor structures allow cats to enjoy nature and the fresh air, all while being confined in a safe space where they cannot run away or come into contact with other animals.

Best

ZMVA Pet House Folding Cat Tent

Customer Rating

Advantages
  • Portable
  • Waterproof
  • Easy to clean
Downsides
  • Not a permanent structure
Our Review:
This tent is a great portable option for your cat. Make sure to secure it to the ground when in use.
Better

Kittywalk Town-&-Country Pet Enclosure

Customer Rating

Advantages
  • Weather resistant
  • Multi-unit/ level
  • Features hammocks
Downsides
  • Difficult assembly
Our Review:
This enclosure is a good option if you want to connect to other Kittywalk outdoor pet enclosures.
Good

Trixie Pet Products Outdoor Cat Run

Customer Rating

Advantages
  • Weather-treated
  • Natural wood finish
  • Upper level
Downsides
  • Lack of instructions
Our Review:
This enclosure is a good way to protect your indoor cat while allowing them outdoors. There is an upper level which is a nice feature for cats that like to climb.

Spay and Neuter

Transmission of FIV is rare in spayed and neutered domesticated cats.  Spayed and neutered animals are less aggressive and less territorial than cats that are intact.  As a result, the cats are less likely to get into fights that lead to bite wounds and the spread of disease.  Community cats should also be spayed and neutered as well, as they are less aggressive and reduce their risk of contracting FIV.

Test New Cats

Before you introduce a new cat into your household, your veterinarian may recommend that you test any new cats for FIV first.  Bringing home a new cat can often be unsettling for the cats that currently live there, and fights may occur.  In order to be sure that the new cat is not infected with FIV, you may decide to have him or her tested before allowing the cat to interact with the animals already living in your home.

Microchips and Identification Tags

Cats that have been vaccinated for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus should wear a collar with a tag, indicating that the cat has had the vaccine.  Vaccinated cats should also be microchipped in the event that the collar and tag come off or get lost.  A microchip can be scanned and will have detailed information about the animal and his or her medical history, in addition to an owner’s information in case the animal becomes lost.  Identification is extremely important because some shelters and rescues euthanize cats that test positive for FIV.  In the event that your pet does get lost, a tag and/or microchip will ensure that your cat is identified and returned home to you.

Cleaning and Disinfecting

Although the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is not typically spread through shared food bowls or other communal cat materials, it is always a good idea to clean and disinfect items regularly.  Always rinse non-porous items with water first.  Organic matter such as urine, saliva, feces, etc. can deactivate disinfecting products.  After rinsing, we suggest using a bleach solution of 1 part bleach to 32 parts water.  Let the items soak for at least 10 minutes, rinse again, and then let air dry.

Top 5 FAQ

How do you prevent FIV in cats?

The best way to prevent your cat from contracting the virus is to keep him or her indoors.  This will prevent any chance of contact with infected felines.  It is also best practice to spay or neuter your pet in order to reduce aggression, and therefore the chance of your cat getting into a fight and receiving a bite wound from an infected cat.

How do you detect FIV in cats?

FIV does not have a specific set of symptoms, however the virus can cause secondary infections that result in fever, weight loss, poor appetite, enlarged lymph nodes, and wounds that won’t heal to name a few.  For more information about the signs of FIV, check out our Signs and Symptoms page.

Can FIV cats be around dogs?

Yes.  Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is species-specific and only impacts cats.  Your dogs are safe from the disease!

Is FIV common in cats?

FIV is typically more common in areas where cats live in crowded conditions, or in areas where there are free-roaming outdoor male cats.  Generally, about 1-5% of healthy cats will become infected with the virus.  In high risk cats (those with compromised immune systems), the rate can be as high as 15-20%.

Is FIV in cats, also known as AIDS?

Feline immunodeficiency virus is a complex virus that is extremely similar to HIV in humans.  Similar to the way HIV can lead to AIDS, FIV can cause immunodeficiency disease in domestic cats.

OTHER FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is a retrovirus?

A retrovirus inserts copies of its genetic material into a cat’s DNA.  Unfortunately, this means that he or she will be infected with FIV for life, and cannot be cured.  However, FIV is a slow-acting virus and it may take months or evens years to incubate and cause symptoms.

Do FIV cats need medication?

Cats that are infected with FIV may require medication to treat any secondary illnesses that occur.  FIV weakens a cat’s immune system, leaving him or her susceptible to many other health issues.  While FIV itself cannot be cured, medication may be prescribed by your veterinarian to treat any symptoms.