Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) Fact List
FeLV and FIV are retroviruses that occur worldwide, with prevalence varying by location. In the U.S. , incidence of FIV/FeLV is highest in the mid-Atlantic and eastern regions and second highest in the northwestern regions. The most effective way to prevent infection is to prevent exposure to infected cats. Testing to identify infected cats is the mainstay of preventing viral transmission. Vaccinations should not be considered a substitute for testing. FeLV is the deadliest infectious disease, the number one killer of domestic cats today. It kills by causing a breakdown in a cat's immune system, allowing the cat to become prey to diseases it might otherwise be able to fight off. Feline Leukemia cannot be transmitted to humans nor can it be transmitted to other species, such as dogs. FeLV is transmitted via saliva, mucus, urine, feces and blood. The most likely methods of transmission are mutual grooming, and biting or fighting. Sneezing, hissing, sharing food or water bowls, and sharing litter boxes are also possible means of transmission. However, 40 percent of felines that test positive for FeLV will live a long, normal life as only carriers of the virus.
Virologists classify FIV in the same retroviridae family as FeLV, but with one major difference: FIV is considered to be in the lentivirus. This type of virus is a slow virus that affects a cat’s immune system over a period of years. FIV cats most often live long, healthy, and relatively normal lives with no symptoms at all. FIV is not easily passed between cats; it cannot be spread casually—the same way as in FeLV cats. A neutered FIV cat, in a home, is extremely unlikely to infect other cats, if properly introduced. Many veterinarians are not educated about FIV since the virus was only discovered 15 years ago.
According to the above, as well as the American Association of Feline Practitioners, all cats should be tested for infection for FeLV and FIV. Cats infected with FeLV or FIV may live for many years. A decision for euthanasia should never be made solely on the basis of whether or not a cat is infected. A confirmed positive test result should be considered only an indication of retrovirus infection, not clinical disease. Diseases in cats infected with FeLV or FIV may not necessarily be a result of retrovirus infection.
- The Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is a slow virus that affects a cat's immune system over a period of years.
- FIV is a cat-only disease and cannot be spread to humans or other non-felines.
- FIV cats most often live long, healthy, and relatively normal lives with no symptoms at all.
- FIV is not easily passed between cats. It cannot be spread casually - like in litter boxes, water and food bowls, or when snuggling and playing. It is rarely spread from a mother to her kittens.
- The virus can be spread through blood transfusions, badly infected gums, or serious, penetrating bite wounds. (Bite wounds of this kind are extremely rare, except in free-roaming, un-neutered tomcats.)
- A neutered cat, in a home, is extremely unlikely to infect other cats, if properly introduced.
- Many vets are not educated about FIV since the virus was only discovered 15 years ago.
- FIV-positive cats should be kept as healthy as possible. Keep them indoors and free from stress, feed them a high-quality diet, keep and treat any secondary problems as soon as they arise.
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