FIV: Feline HIV

Feline HIV, or the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), is similar to the human HIV, which is a virus that can cause the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. This disease suppresses the immune system, making the cat susceptible to different infections and diseases. The virus itself is not deadly, but in most cases, the secondary infections can be fatal.


Feline HIV can be transmitted through saliva, blood and other bodily secretions. Most commonly, cats contract the virus through bite wounds and scratches that occur during cat fights. Adult un-neutered males are most exposed to being infected, as they get in fights more often. The virus can also be transmitted from an infected mother to her kittens. Feline HIV cannot be transmitted to humans, and human HIV cannot be transmitted to cats.


Once the cat is infected with HIV, there will be no immediate symptoms. However, the virus will gradually spread in the body and will suppress the pet’s immunity. The cat will be weaker and will become ill more frequently. The most common diseases in cats with FIV include upper respiratory infections or colds.

In time, the cat will feel weaker, will be more lethargic and can also display the following symptoms:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Depression
  • More sleep hours
  • Lack of interest for games or activities
  • Re-occurring infections


FIV can be diagnosed through a blood test. The ELISA Snap test is the most efficient test to confirm the diagnosis. However, the virus will not be visible a short while (up to 6 months) after contracting it.

Management and Treatment

Feline HIV cannot be cured. However, the disease can be managed. If your cat is infected with the virus, you should focus your attention on curing the secondary infections. These infections may cause complications and can often reoccur. When medication is prescribed, the vet must consider the condition of the cat. Aggressive antibiotics or other immunosuppressant medication should be avoided.

You need to keep your cat in a cozy and warm environment. Don’t allow your cat outdoors, to prevent infections and to prevent other cats from contracting the virus. A cat with FIV can live a long life if you offer the needed care and attention.

FIV Vaccine

Even though there is a FIV vaccine, its efficiency is controversial. Cats that receive the FIV vaccine may show a false positive when tested for FIV. If your cat gets lost and is picked up by a shelter, he may be euthanized due to a false FIV positive.


If you have a cat with feline HIV, you should keep him isolated from other cats to make sure he won’t infect others. To prevent your cat from getting infected in the first place, you should consider keeping him indoors. Indoor cats are not exposed to a lot of diseases and cat fights, and will have a higher life expectancy. You can also opt to neuter your cat. Neutered cats will not have the drive to fight other cats.