Your FIV-Positive Kitten Probably Doesn’t Have FIV
The Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, FIV for short, causes a viral disease in cats which weakens the immune system by attacking the white blood cells. However, it’s a slow-acting virus that has three serious stages of infection. One of which is the latent phase, which is when it lies dormant in the cat’s body for several months to years. During that time, infected cats usually live happy, normal lives—generally, showing no signs of illness.
FIV may be a popular viral disease now, but most people don’t know that it’s only been around for about 30 years. That means, although we certainly have a lot more information about the virus today, not everyone is in-the-know on the updated findings. With that said, misconceptions about FIV are still going around and causing confusion among veterinary professionals, shelters, and pet parents. What is the most common misconception? Kittens that test positive for FIV have FIV! The truth is, they probably don’t and here’s why…
Why Do False Positives Happen?
There are two main reasons why false positives can happen: maternal antibodies and vaccination.
Both humans and animals have antibodies—also known as immunoglobulins. They’re naturally produced by the immune system to serve as protection from foreign materials that could potentially harm the body, such as disease-causing pathogens. In the case of an FIV-positive mother cat, because she has FIV inside her body, she will also have FIV antibodies. When she gives birth, she passes these antibodies—not the actual virus—to her kittens.
FIV tests are designed to only detect FIV antibodies which can lead to false positive results. This is occurs most commonly in kittens because as long as the maternal antibodies are present inside them a positive result will appear. However, maternal antibodies are only meant to provide temporary protection. Once the kittens are old enough to produce their own antibodies, the maternal antibodies will disappear and they’ll most likely test negative for FIV. That’s why it’s not recommended for kittens to be tested at a young age. Many veterinarians don’t even recommend getting cats of any age tested for FIV. If you want to know why, feel free to read this article.
Why do we get our pets, and ourselves, vaccinated? Because we want to gain immunity from various dangerous diseases. But, what exactly do vaccines do to our body to make us immune to those diseases?
Vaccines come in different forms, but they’re all meant to do one thing: trigger the immune system to produce antibodies by mimicking a real infection. That means, kittens or adult cats that have been vaccinated against FIV will have antibodies against the disease. When they get tested, they’ll test positive for FIV despite not having the actual virus.
When is The Right Time to Get Kittens Tested?
Kittens born to an FIV-positive mother can have maternal antibodies up until they’re 5 months old. To get more accurate results, it’s best to wait until the kittens are about 6 to 8 months old before getting them tested. It’s normally around this time that maternal antibodies have completely diminished and you’ll see the real status of your kitten’s health.
Do FIV Test Results Really Matter?
Contrary to popular belief, FIV doesn’t equal a death sentence. Lots of FIV-positive cats live normal lives and remain healthy for a long time. Many of them live just as long, sometimes even longer than their non-FIV counterparts. With proper care and nutrition, FIV-positive cats can and do thrive!
To be honest, they’re not so different from non-FIV cats. It’s also perfectly safe for them to live with non-FIV’s, too! Since FIV mainly spreads through DEEP bite wounds that draw blood, friendly, well-tempered FIV-positive cats can make amazing companions for you and other household pets. Don’t let the “FIV-positive” label scare you from opening your home to an FIV-positive cat or kitten. They just might be the feline friend you’re looking for!