Thursday, 2 August 2012

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

FIV is a virus in cats that is similar to the human virus, HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). However, FIV does not infect humans and HIV does not infect cats.

About 3-6% of the UK cat population have been infected with FIV. The virus is present in the blood, saliva and other blood fluids of infected cats. The virus is very delicate and cannot survive for long periods outside of the cat. For example, it cannot be transferred from cat to cat on people’s hands or clothes. It is transmitted primarily by cats fighting, but it can also be passed from an infected female cat to her kittens. The virus is very similar to HIV in people, it may in months or years lead to having a weakened immune system. However, the incubation period before the disease develops can last for many years. Many infected cats have years of normal life and may die from something else entirely before their FIV infection causes any problems.  

Signs of FIV are varied but usually result from a weakened immune system and therefore a vulnerability to other infections. Once disease develops infected cats may:
-          become repeatedly ill, for example, with cat flu, sore gums, skin disease or digestive upsets
-          simply seem “off-colour” or have a high temperature
-          take a long time to recover from infections
-          lose weight
-          develop tumours

Cats with FIV may be more susceptible to secondary infections or tumours and may be a risk to other cats. For these reasons, it is important that they are kept indoors so they are separate from FIV negative cats to protect them from other infectious diseases and to stop them giving the virus to other cats.

FIV is diagnosed by blood testing a cat. Vets can quickly perform a test that detects the antibodies to the virus in blood. It is recommended that positive results (particularly those from otherwise healthy cats) are sent for confirmation using a different test at an external laboratory, as false positive results can occur. Kittens less than five to six months old many have had antibodies passed on to them by their infected mothers, but not the virus itself. Only a third of kittens born to FIV-positive mothers actually have FIV themselves. Special tests to detect the virus should be performed on such kittens or antibody tests should be repeated when the kittens are five to six months old.

Results can give a false negative if a cat has only recently been exposed to the virus, as it can take up to eight weeks for the cat to produce antibodies. It is recommended that you wait this time before re-testing negative cats if they are known to have had direct contact with other FIV-positive cats. FIV-negative cats should be kept separate from FIV-positive cats during this period.

Unfortunately, there is currently no vaccine for FIV in the UK although, getting your cat neutered reduces their chance of contracting FIV through fighting. Cats Protection recommends that FIV positive cats are kept indoors and only allowed outside in an impenetrable garden or safe run. They should not be allowed direct contact with any FIV-negative cats. Indoor cats can make extremely rewarding pets. Indoor cats will be safe from road accidents and many other outdoor dangers and will probably be more likely to spend time playing with you than a cat than a cat that fulfil its natural hunting instincts and curiosity outside. It is important that FIV positive cats have regular vaccinations, deflea and deworming treatments and a good diet to help give them every chance of a long and happy life.  

Here at Exeter Axhayes Adoption centre, we home our FIV positive cats as indoor cats. We cannot predict if or when their immune system may be affected and whether disease will develop. If you would like to join the hundreds of kind owners that have adopted an FIV positive cat, please contact us on 01395 232377. So many have been given many happy years together. Please visit our website and facebook page to view our FIV cats available for adoption.

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