In addition to Feline Leukemia Virus, outdoor cats are also susceptible to a disease called Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. FIV is a virus that is transmitted similarly to FeLV, through direct cat-to-cat contact. Fighting is the most common method of transmission. Other less common methods of transmission mating, sharing water/food bowls, and litter boxes and mutual grooming.
FIV is present in about 1-2% of cats. FIV attacks your cat’s immune system and compromises their ability to fight off infection. Common symptoms of the virus can include excessive inflammation of the mouth and gums, weight loss, anorexia, lethargy, fever, eye infections, swollen lymph nodes, vomiting and diarrhea. Since these symptoms are very vague and are not specific to FIV the diagnosis must be made through a blood test. The FIV/FeLV test is a combination test that can be run in the clinic in 10 minutes using 3 drops of blood. Although false positives and negatives are possible using the test they are rare. All kittens should be tested for FIV as well as all adult cats who go outdoors or who have had access to other outdoor cats.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for FIV. Cats who are positive for this virus will remain positive for the remainder of their lives. Treatment consists of managing your cat’s symptoms, usually with antibiotics. Unlike FeLV, cats who contract FIV can often live for 2-5 years with no major symptoms. Their lifespan can even range up to 8 years or more after diagnosis. If your cat is diagnosed with FIV it is strongly recommended that they do not go outside and they live as an only cat in order to reduce the risk of transmission to other felines. Annual blood work and examinations are also highly recommended in order to try and keep your cat as healthy as possible. Any additional stresses or disease processes may cause your cat to begin showing symptoms of FIV.
Ensuring that your cats are neutered/spayed can help reduce their risk of contracting FIV as they will not mate and will be less inclined to roam and fight. Keeping your cat indoors completely is the only way to make sure they will not be exposed to the virus. There is currently no recommended vaccine for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. Please do not hesitate to contact River Road Veterinary Clinic if you have any questions regarding FIV and your cat.