1. What Is FIV?
This is the feline immunodeficiency virus. It is sometimes referred to as feline AIDS. FIV launches a widespread attack on the cat's immune system. Illness and death come from any number of secondary infections and illnesses that the body cannot fight. A cat who is FIV positive might not exhibit any symptoms. When a secondary illness strikes, the cat may have a fever, weight loss and enlarged lymph nodes. The cat may also get mouth sores, gum disease, urinary tract problems or a respiratory illness.
2. What Is FeLV?
This virus usually causes feline leukemia. It can also cause some forms of cancer and anemia. It is an immune suppressor so the symptoms can vary. It is separate from FIV. FeLV is contagious amongst cats but cannot be spread to humans or other animals such as a dog. It spreads through contact with infected tears, saliva, or urine via shared food dishes, litter boxes, bite wounds. A cat can become infected by grooming an infected cat, and a kitten can become infected through infected mother's milk.
3. How Can My Cat Catch FIV or FeLV?
These two viruses are transmitted from cat to cat. Cats catch FeLV via mucus, urine, feces, saliva or blood. FeLV can be transmitted through mutual grooming and sharing of water/food bow whereas FIV is usually caught via saliva and blood. Most cats catch FIV from a fight.
4. What Happens When a Cat Catches a Virus?
When an infected and non-infected cat share blood or saliva, the virus can enter the healthy cat. It reproduces in the tissue of the lymphatic system. This is your cat's first place of defense against disease. If the immune system is strong enough, the cat may defeat the virus at this juncture. If not, the virus will move into the bone marrow. This is where the white and red blood cells are produced. It may stay there without producing symptoms for many years. At some point, it is likely to move into other systems and launch an attack on other parts of the immune system. This is when symptoms and illness occur.
5. Can a Human Catch or Transmit a Cat Virus?
Cat viruses are only transmitted from a cat directly to another cat. Humans cannot catch the virus. If you pet an infected cat and then your own cat, you cannot transmit the virus to your cat.
6. How Can I Protect My Cat?
The best form of prevention against cat viruses is vaccination. There are a few commercial vaccines available for FeLV. The best way to protect your cat from FIV is to prevent them from getting into fights with other cats. Keeping your cat indoors and spaying or neutering them may also help reduce the risks. No vaccine is 100% effective but it seriously reduces the risk of transmission.
7. Are There Any Risks in Vaccination?
There are some mild risks associated with the vaccine but nowhere near the risks associated with catching the virus. As of 1992, no approved vaccine is capable of causing FeLV. There is a 1 to 2 in 10,000 risk that your cat may have an adverse reaction to the vaccine. It's a good idea to stay at the vets for 30 minutes or so after your cat gets the vaccine to see if he has an adverse reaction.