What is FIV? The acronym is short for “Feline Immunodeficiency Virus,” a virus which is very similar to the HIV virus in humans. FOHA is committed to education regarding FIV. We find that, in general, people don’t understand what FIV is, and they think these cats are ill or sickly. People fear FIV – can people catch it? Can my dog? Will I get sick from petting an FIV-positive cat?
The answers are no, no and no.
Through the generosity of FOHA donors in funding FOHA’s FIV cattery, FOHA has the ability to not only help many FIV-positive cats but also to educate the public about FIV. And our approach has been working! We have adopted out dozens of FIV-positive cats into loving homes since opening the doors of our FIV communal living facility in 2005.
For example: Adorable Skipper.
Skipper showed up in FOHA’s driveway, beat up and dirty. Despite his FIV-positive status both surgery and recovery to remove his injured eye(and neuter our boy) went just fine!
Better yet -- in January of 2012, Skipper (along with another FIV+ FOHA kitty, Teddy) found his forever home!
- FIV is a cat-only disease and cannot be spread to humans or other non-felines.
- The Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is a slow virus that affects a cat’s immune system over a period of years. FIV cats most often live long, healthy, and relatively normal lives with few or no symptoms.
- FIV is not easily passed between cats. It cannot be spread causally, like in litter boxes, water or food bowls, or when snuggling and playing.
- A neutered cat in a home is extremely unlikely to infect other cats, if properly introduced.
- The virus can be spread through blood transfusions, badly infected gums, or serious, penetrating bite wounds.
- Many vets are not educated about FIV since the virus was only discovered 15 years ago.
- FIV-positive cats should be kept as healthy as possible by keeping them indoors and free from stress. Feed a high-quality diet and treat any secondary medical problems as soon as they arise.
Is it Difficult to Care for an FIV-positive cat?
FIV-positive cats require no special medication or additional care beyond the diligence you’d use in caring for any cat. Dr. Virginia Clemans, former chief veterinarian at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, explains that, “the virus affects the immune system, so keep FIV cats indoors. Make sure they get regular vaccinations. And give them a high-quality diet. Keep an eye on them, and take them to the veterinarian at the first sign of illness."
Some parents of FIV-positive kitties decide to use holistic treatments aimed at boosting the immune system. At Friends of Homeless Animals, we sprinkle a powder form of L-Lysine, commercially known as Viralys, on to the wet food of our FIV-positive kitties (as well as our older cats) each morning.
Can FIV-positive and FIV-negative cats live together?
We at FOHA believe that the answer is a definite yes – for cats who are well-socialized and do not have aggression issues. “Cats in households with stable social structures where housemates do not fight are at little risk for acquiring FIV infections.”
When introducing an FIV positive and an FIV negative cat in a home setting, you will need to carefully monitor behaviors and interactions. Many of our FOHA adopters and volunteers have successfully integrated FIV-positive and FIV-negative cats into their homes with no negative impact on cats’ health.
Just look at FIV+ Willie and his FIV-negative brother Tebow.
Come Visit our FIV-positive Cats
Anyone who comes to FOHA’s communal FIV-positive cattery is overwhelmed with the outpouring of affection from these cats. Our FIV-positive cats are healthy, happy, and outgoing – they look no different than any other cats. They love to lounge and play, and there are some outgoing kitties who are sure to meet you at the door upon your arrival. Just walk around to the side of the cattery – you’ll see and hear the meowing munchkins on their screened-in back porch, beckoning you to come for a visit and a cuddle.
If you learn one thing from a visit to FOHA or our website, learn that FIV is not a death sentence – these cats can live just as long as their FIV- friends and can provide just as much if not more love to their adoptive families.
We hope you’ll consider adding one of these special, often overlooked cats to your feline family.
Please feel free to ask FOHA for more information about FIV.