Should FIV-Positive Cats Be Euthanized?
When people hear about the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) for the first time, their primary concern is often the fear that FIV may spread to humans or other household pets. Given that the disease is sometimes also called as Feline AIDS or Cat AIDS, the misunderstanding it totally understandable. However, despite its relation to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV, FIV is nothing to be afraid of. It’s completely species-specific and cannot be transmitted to humans or non-feline animals.
Good news, right? But, are non-FIV cats in danger of contracting FIV if they live with FIV-positive cats? Should all FIV-positive cats be euthanized to prevent the spread of the virus? Let’s find out!
What Does FIV Do to Cats?
FIV is a virus that attacks a cat’s immune system by destroying the white blood cells, which are responsible for fending off harmful pathogens and bacteria. Without an appropriate number of these cells, cats become vulnerable to developing secondary infections, as well as certain types of medical conditions.
Now, as scary as that sounds, FIV isn’t a death sentence for cats. It’s highly possible for FIV-positive cats to live long, healthy lives—some even outlive their non-FIV counterparts! That’s because FIV is a lentivirus, meaning it’s a slow-acting virus. It has a long incubation period and can lie dormant in a cat’s body for years. During this stage of infection, cats typically show no signs of illness and continue living normally.
Three Stages of FIV
There are three stages of FIV: the initial or acute phase, the latent or subclinical phase, and the chronic or terminal phase.
The initial phase begins about four to six weeks after the cat becomes infected. During this time, FIV-positive cats generally experience a recurring fever and swelling of the lymph nodes, followed by diarrhea, loss of appetite, and skin problems.
The latent phase, on the other hand, is the asymptomatic stage of infection. That’s when the virus just lies dormant inside the cat’s body, and there are no outward signs of illness. For most FIV-positive cats, this phase can last for many years. That’s why it’s not uncommon for cats with FIV to live for as long as 12 to 15 years, appearing healthy the entire time.
During the chronic phase, which is the last stage of infection, FIV finally turns into Feline AIDS. In this stage, the virus has already compromised the immune system to the point that it’s no longer possible for an FIV-positive cat to defend itself from diseases and infections. All sorts of health problems will then begin to develop, such as upper respiratory infections, chronic mouth inflammation, and opportunistic infections.
How Do You Keep an FIV- Positive Cat Healthy?
Since there is no cure for FIV, the best and only way to help FIV-positive cats live long and healthy lives is to take good care of their immune system. If you have an FIV-positive cat or thinking about adopting one, here are steps you can take to keep your feline friend in tip-top shape:
- Keep them indoors. Since FIV-positive cats have a weaker immune system compared to their non-FIV counterparts, they’re more susceptible to developing infections and diseases. Keeping them indoors will make sure they’re safe and out of harm’s way.
- Get them spayed or neutered. It’s crucial for FIV-positive cats to get spayed or neutered because FIV is mainly transmitted through deep bite wounds. Getting your cat fixed will reduce the chances of them picking fights with other cats and spreading the virus. On top of that, spaying or neutering your cat will prevent them from developing certain forms of cancer and tumors.
- Feed them a nutritionally balanced diet. To keep your FIV-positive cat’s immune system healthy and strong, make sure your furry friend is getting all the vitamins and nutrients they need. You can do this by feeding them high-quality, nutritionally complete cat food. If you’re not sure what to get, your veterinarian can help you choose the right one for your cat.
When Should An FIV-Positive Cat Be Euthanized?
Although most FIV-positive cats can live normal lives despite the disease, not all are so lucky. Some FIV-positive cats progress to the last stage of infection quicker than others and end up suffering a plethora of health issues that, unfortunately, prevent them from enjoying the quality of life. When this happens, people are faced with the tough decision of whether to keep the cats alive or allow them to get euthanized.
So, how do we know if euthanasia is the right decision? When should an FIV-positive cat be euthanized? Here are a few questions that may help you decide:
- Is your cat still able to eat, drink, and play like normal?
- Is your cat still able to sleep comfortably in their favorite sleeping positions or areas?
- Is your cat still able to climb cat trees or shelves, chase toys, or move around without any trouble?
- Are there any negative changes in their behavior? (becoming aggressive or aloof, not wanting to be touched or petted anymore, not eating or drinking as much, showing no interest in treats or toys anymore)
- Is your cat still able to enjoy the little things they’ve always enjoyed? (playing, basking in the sun, climbing bookshelves, looking out windows, being petted or cuddled, etc.)
- Is your cat in pain or is clearly suffering?
These questions may help you make your decision, and we hope you make the right one. We encourage you to decide in your cat’s best interests in this situation and to set your own emotions aside. Saying goodbye to a beloved pet can be hard, but sometimes it’s the only way to keep them from suffering even more.