Facing the Facts About FIV

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Biscuit is FIV+ and currently looking for his forever family.

June is National Adopt a Shelter Cat Month. If you’re looking to welcome a new feline family member, you may meet some kitties, like Biscuit and Groot, who are FIV+.

But, what is FIV and what does it mean? OHS veterinarian Dr. Emily Ferrell helps demystify FIV by answering some of the most frequently asked questions about this condition.

What is FIV?

FIV stands for feline immunodeficiency virus. FIV is a virus that progresses very slowly, gradually affecting and weakening a cat’s immune system over a period of years.

How is FIV transmitted?

It is primarily transmitted from cat to cat through bite wounds. With this in mind, cats with FIV should be kept indoors only so they don’t encounter other cats outside.

Can FIV+ cats live with other cats?

They can live with other cats who do not have FIV if it is a peaceful relationship and does not involve fighting and/or biting. It is at an adopter’s discretion to decide if this is the right choice for their home as a bite wound from an FIV+ cat to a healthy cat will cause FIV.

Can FIV be transmitted to dogs?

It cannot be transmitted to dogs.

Do cats with FIV live shorter lives or have other health complications?

There is an expectation that their life will be shorter than a non-infected cat as they have an immune system deficiency, although the length varies from cat to cat. FIV causes them to be more susceptible to contracting other infections like upper respiratory infections. They may experience increasing and decreasing throughout their life span.

Can FIV be cured?

There is no cure. Management of FIV+ cats involves caring for them medically at times that they experience infections or other disease processes.

Won’t my cat get bored if she has to be inside all the time?

Keeping your FIV+ cat indoors can help her stay healthy. To prevent boredom, use interactive toys to play with your cat every day — you can even use cardboard boxes or paper bags. Provide perches, hiding spots and scratching posts to make her world more interesting. Consider building a small “catio” to let her have safe access to your backyard. Learn more about enrichment for your cat.

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