FIV cats can live perfectly happy, healthy lives with the proper care. Many cats with feline AIDS never develop symptoms and can live normal life spans. Caring for FIV cats isn't much different from caring for any other cat. Here's what you need to know.
Understanding Feline Immunodeficiency Virus
Feline immunoddeficiency virus, or FIV, is called feline AIDs because it behaves in the same way inside your cat's body that HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, behaves inside the human body. FIV is not contagious to humans or other species. Though it's contagious from cat to cat, it's difficult to spread; transmission usually requires a deep bite wound, though it can also be spread through blood transfusions and by minor bite wounds if the infected cat's gums are bleeding. It cannot be passed by litter boxes, water or food bowls, or by casual contact; it's very rare for this disease to be spread from mother to kitten.
Feline immunodeficiency virus compromises your cat's immune system. This means that he can no longer fight off illnesses and infections, and he'll be vulnerable to a range of secondary infections that may be rare in healthy cats. FIV cats may suffer serious illness, and even death, as a result of illnesses and infections that would be considered quite minor, if they weren't immuno-compromised.
Screening for FIV
A positive screening test for FIV does not mean your cat definitely has FIV. A Western Blot test or IFA test can conclusively determine whether your cat has been infected with FIV. It's very important to retest if your cat tests positive for FIV, as the initial positive result could be false.
You should know that it's difficult to get an accurate result when testing kittens younger than six months of age; a positive result in such kittens may be invalid. Kittens younger than six months of age should be tested each month with a SNAP test until they exceed six months of age. If the SNAP test comes back positive at this point, a Western Blot test should be conducted.
Caring for the FIV Positive Cat
The good news is that cats with FIV may never display symptoms; they may live normal, happy, healthy life spans. Caring for a cat with FIV is much the same as caring for any other cat; you must simply be extra vigilant for signs of illness. FIV cats must be kept indoors at all times, and away from contact with non-infected cats, though they may be allowed contact with other FIV positive cats.
FIV cats should be kept as free as possible from stress. They should enjoy a high quality, high protein diet. Secondary infections should be watched for and any health problems, no matter how minor they might seem, should be treated immediately as they arise.
Above all, your FIV cat needs love, attention, and support. If you feel incapable of caring for your FIV cat, there are sanctuaries around the U.S. dedicated to loving and caring for cats with feline immunodeficiency virus.