Sunday, 20 March 2016

FIV cats looking for their purrrfect indoor homes.

We currently have two loveable boys Sooty and Edgar who have been diagnosed with FIV. They are both looking for loving indoors homes. We thought we'd share some info about FIV and some advice to keep them happy and healthy in an indoor environment.....

Meet Sooty - He is 5 years old, he came into our centre after his owner could no longer keep him.


Sooty


Meet Edgar....he is 5 years old, he's travelled all the way down from Wales to find a loving home in the Westcountry. 

Edgar



What is Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)?

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

How do cats catch FIV?

The virus is present in the blood, saliva and other body fluids of infected cats. It is very delicate and is unable to survive for long periods outside of the cat – so it cannot be transferred to other cats from your hands or clothes. Cats primarily pick up the virus through fighting – via bite wounds – or through mating behaviour, but it can also be passed from an infected female cat to her kittens.

Do all cats that get the virus become permanently infected?

Yes. A cat will produce antibodies, but these are ineffective and once a cat has FIV, they will be FIV positive for the rest of their life.

What are the signs of FIV?

There is an incubation period of months or even years when your cat may be perfectly healthy before signs of infection show. 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 e.g 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

How do I have my cat tested for FIV?

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 may have had antibodies passed on to them by their infected mothers, but not the virus itself. On average, only a third of kittens born to FIV-positive mothers actually have FIV themselves. A special test to detect the virus should be performed on such kittens and antibody tests can 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.

Is there any treatment for FIV?

There is currently no reliable treatment for FIV and it is not possible to predict if and when signs may develop. Vets will treat each FIV-positive cat individually, depending on the signs they develop, but treatment may involve:

·         antibiotics and/or anti-inflammatory drugs as appropriate for secondary recurrent infections

·         drugs that may help through direct anti-viral activity

·         keeping infected cats indoors, with a good diet and ensuring they are fully vaccinated and regularly treated against fleas and worms. This will help to protect them from secondary infections, as well as help to prevent the spread of FIV to other cats.

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 FIV-negative cats.

Indoor life....


Ideally all cats would be allowed access to the outdoors to express their natural behaviour. However, cats can adapt to living indoors, particularly if they are used to it from a young age. Some cats need to be confined indoors due to medical conditions and others prefer an indoor life. If they become bored they may develop behaviour problems so there are a number of ways to keep your cat happy:

Keep them occupied…

Domestic cats that have free access to the outdoors will still often engage in hunting activity even if there is no access to prey – e.g. playing with fallen leaves, or grass blowing in the wind. It is important to allow cats opportunities to exhibit hunting behaviour, as it keeps them mentally stimulated and releases feel-good hormones called endorphins. Indoor cats aren’t able to play outside, so it is important to provide them with toys and activities to keep them occupied.

If you are out of the house all day, you might consider getting two cats. They may keep each other company and stop each other from becoming bored. However, while this set up can work well if the two cats have been brought up together, this is not a guarantee. Even some siblings may prefer not to remain together once they reach adulthood.

If you do introduce a new cat to your home, it is critical to do this slowly and carefully to avoid lifelong tension which may lead to behavioural issues and conflict. If the two cats do not get along, it can be even more stressful for them if they are confined indoors and can never escape each other.

Indoor benefits

Your cat will be protected from loss or outdoor hazards, such as road accidents, physical attacks from other animals and outdoor poisons, if they are kept solely indoors

Your cat may be less likely to contract parasites or infectious disease through not having direct contact with other cats or the environment used by cats or other animals

Your cat won’t hunt if kept solely indoors – assuming your house is rodent-proof – however, opportunities to play and express hunting behaviour must still be given

Keep your cat safe indoors….

·         Indoor hazards – It’s important to remember to keep cupboards, washing machines and tumble driers closed. Toilet lids should be kept down to avoid any risk of drowning. Balconies and windows should be safely fenced over with strong wire mesh or screens, making sure there are no gaps that your cat could fall through

·         Houseplants – some plants and flowers – particularly lilies – can be toxic to cats. It’s probably best to ensure you don’t have plants that are dangerous to cats in your home, or certainly not within your cats’ reach

·         Household products – cats are very susceptible to poisoning. A number of everyday household items can pose a danger to cats and should be kept safely away

·         inactivity and obesity – indoor cats need to be provided with opportunities to exercise to avoid them getting fat or inactive which can lead to other health issues

·         over-dependence – a solitary indoor cat will rely on its owner to provide stimulation, companionship and exercise and can become over-dependent

·         escape – keeping windows and doors shut to prevent an indoor cat escaping can be difficult in busy households. If the cat does get out, they’ll be highly stressed and disorientated as they’ll have no experience of the outdoor environment. It is recommended that you microchip your cat, even if they live indoors to increase the chance of them being reunited with you if they go missing

Cats in the wild spend a lot of their time on short, frequent hunting expeditions. In comparison, domestic cats are given food bowls, so it doesn’t take long for them to eat their daily ration or allow them to make use of their great senses. Try using feeding puzzle balls to give part, or all, of your cat’s daily ration. It is best to let cats get used to this gradually, to ensure they have enough to eat and don’t become frustrated.

Enhancing and maximising the indoor environment for all cats

Cats should be provided with a stimulating and safe indoor environment, whether they go outside or not. If your cat is solely kept indoors, then this is particularly essential. If you have more than one cat, offer enough resources in different locations where your cats can eat, drink, toilet, rest and hide.

Play and exercise

Keep your cat amused with toys, climbing towers or activity centres. These can be bought or made – a cardboard box with holes cut into it or a ball of tin foil can be perfectly adequate. Play is more fun if you get involved too – you can use fishing rod toys with feathers on a string to mimic their prey! Opportunities to exhibit hunting behaviour are often triggered by toys which move and attract the cat’s attention. Older cats will love playing three or four times a day, but the type of play may need to be adapted to suit their needs and level of mobility.

Alfie FIV cat homed 2015 - with a puzzle feeder

Younger cats will be happy to play 10 times a day or more. Very short games of one to two minutes are fine – cats use their energy in short bursts when hunting, so try to mimic this. Create interest at meal times by hiding biscuits around the house for your cat to find. Make a pyramid out of cardboard toilet roll tubes and hide food in the tubes, or use a puzzle ball. Swap toys around regularly to keep them interesting.

Somewhere to hide
It is important to always provide your cat with an easily accessible place to hide which will help to make them feel safe and secure. A hiding place can be something as simple as a cardboard box on its side, or upside down with large holes for access. Alternatively, you could purchase an igloo style cat bed, or offer space under the bed or in a wardrobe with the door left ajar. The cat shouldn’t be disturbed while they are hiding.

Somewhere to get up high
Cats feel safer if they can view their surroundings from a height and this also increases their territory by providing extra vertical space that they can use. This is a common coping mechanism for cats that feel anxious or fearful. You could place a cosy blanket on top of a wardrobe and provide access by placing a stool or similar item next to it. Cats also love to sit on window sills and shelves. Extra consideration should be given to elderly cats.

Sleeping
On average, cats spend about 16 hours a day sleeping. Cats generally rest or sleep intermittently throughout the day and will prefer a warm, comfortable and safe place. There is a large range of cat beds available, including igloo beds, or hammocks for the radiator. A simple cardboard box with a blanket inside will also do the trick.

Scratching and climbing

A scratching post will provide exercise, claw maintenance and a focal point for your cat to express this natural behaviour

– it will help protect your furniture too. Cats like to stretch and scratch after they wake up, so try placing the scratching post near where they sleep. A good scratching post has the following features:

a strong sturdy base so the cat can lean against the post without it wobbling

tall enough that the cat can stretch fully

a vertical thread that allows the cat to scratch downwards

Eating grass

A type of grass that cats particularly like is Cocksfoot – it has long broad leaves so it is easy for them to bite. It is believed that eating grass helps cats to cough up hairballs. If your cat can’t go outside, Cocksfoot grass can be grown indoors. Seeds are readily available from garden centres and pet shops. If no grass is provided, your cat may try to eat other household plants which can pose a risk.


Lennie FIV cat homed 2012 - eating cat grass in his pen

Toileting

It is a good idea to have one litter tray per cat, plus one extra – especially if your cats are kept indoors. Place the litter trays in different quiet areas of the house, away from the food and water bowls. Cats don’t like using dirty or soiled trays so make sure the litter tray is cleaned at least once a day. This helps to prevent accidents as well as being more hygienic. Cats generally prefer at least 3cm depth of litter and a litter of a sandy texture. Make any changes to the tray, the litter or its location very slowly to avoid accidents.

Indoor cats can make extremely rewarding pets and giving a home to an FIV positive cat may give you both many years of happiness together. For more information please visit our website www.axhayes.cats.org.uk. Thank you. 

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