Understanding Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

Feline immunodeficiency virus, also referred to as FIV or feline AIDS, is a virus that effects household cats worldwide. This disease is contagious and is generally spread through saliva, most often by fighting male cats that bite, or have been bitten by an another infected cat. Unlike HIV in humans, FIV is not typically spread by sexual activity. Indoor cats are much less likely to contract the disease, unless they are in direct contact with other FIV cats. There is no cure for cat AIDS, but there are treatment options that may have a good rate of success in keeping an infected cat healthy and strong for the remainder of its life.

Symptoms of FIV

Symptoms of feline immunodeficiency virus are widespread, since this disease attacks and deteriorates the immune system. Once the immune system is weakened, the cat will become susceptible to a wide range of other conditions and diseases, some being potentially fatal. Initially, it may be very hard to discover any symptoms of this disease. The infection may progress for months without visibly affecting the cat's condition. At some point, the infection becomes dormant and can stay that way for years, again producing no visible symptoms. Once symptoms are realized, it's likely the disease is in its final stage, where chronic infections may become frequent and difficult to treat. One or many of the following symptoms could indicate feline immunodeficiency virus:


  • Loss of appetite
  • Poor coat or skin condition
  • Fever
  • Wounds that heal slowly or not at all
  • Anemia
  • Seizures
  • Tumors
  • Shaking
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Chronic eye problems
  • Chronic ear problems
  • Infections of the mouth and teeth


FIV FeLV Vaccination

There is a vaccination available to prevent FeLV (feline leukemia virus) and feline immunodeficiency virus. While these are two distinctly different viruses, they can and often occur simultaneously, and the vaccine attempts to build antibodies for both. This, however, is one of the vaccines that may be unnecessary under normal conditions. Unless the cat is at high risk of contracting feline AIDS, it is not recommended, especially for kittens. As with all immunizations and shots, there is a potential for side effects that may lead to further problems. Because of the large number of variations of FIV, it's been difficult to achieve proper development of a vaccine that protects against all strains. The efficacy of the FIV vaccine has not yet been proven, and cats will always test positive after the shots have been administered. Show cats may have their papers revoked after vaccination, as it will become impossible to determine whether the virus is, or is not truly present in the cat's system.

Treatment for FIV

While a vaccine may or may not provide protection against feline immunodeficiency virus, once the disease is contracted, there is no cure. The only treatment options available are those aimed at complications resulting from secondary illnesses or direct strengthening of the immune system. Approach treatment options with caution, as traditional medical treatments often have more side effects than benefits. Research your options, consider a holistic approach and help to assist your cat at maintaining the best quality of life possible.