Despite new scientific findings, the myths around FIV + cats and the disease itself continue to be widely propagated.
Such propaganda results in the disease being widely misunderstood. Cats with FIV are often overlooked in animal shelters due to such misconceptions about the disease.
Hopefully, we can dispel some of these myths and shed some light on what the disease is, how it’s transmitted and other common questions about FIV cats.
What is FIV?
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is an autoimmune disorder commonly referred to as FIV. It is a lentivirus that affects cats around the world. Recent studies have estimated that between 9% – 16% of cats in Australia are infected with FIV. Cats with FIV have a harder time fighting off diseases than unaffected cats due to a less-effective immune system.
FUV affects cats only.
It CANNOT be transmitted to people and is nothing like HIV – human immunodeficiency virus.
How do cats get FIV?
Cats with FIV most commonly acquire the disease through deep bite wounds. In a small minority of cases, the disease is also carried through blood and sometimes birth.
Because biting is the dominant means of transmission, the disease is most prevalent in feral cat colonies with unneutered males. Cats housed exclusively indoors or in secure cat enclosures are much less likely if ever, to be infected.
While it is possible for kittens to contract FIV from an infected mother, studies have shown that most of them do not. Kittens under 6 months of age that test positive should be re-tested in 60-day intervals until they are 6 months of age. Many of these kittens will show a false positive because the mother passed antibodies and not the virus, on to the kitten. More often than not, kittens do not carry the virus and grow into healthy adult cats.
How long do cats with FIV live?
Studies have found that FIV+ cats often outlive their FIV- friends, or at the very least, live just as long.
http://www.catchat.org/fiv.html “A ten-year FIV Monitoring Project was carried out at Glasgow Veterinary School involving 26 cats and the results indicated that a higher percentage of FIV negative cats died during the period of the study than FIV positive cats and that FIV infection did not affect the cats’ life expectancy. Dr Diane D. Addie (Lecturer in Veterinary Virology, University of Glasgow) said “at least 3 studies in FIV positive cats have shown a lifespan equal to uninfected cats.”
A fourteen year study by Maureen Hutchison B.Sc, BVMS, MRCVS (veterinary adviser to the Cat Action Trust) found that FIV-positive cats are more likely to die by being killed in road accidents or to be alive and well into their twilight years than they are to die from any FIV related condition.”
It’s important to keep FIV cats away from other sick cats and to keep them indoors to avoid viruses, bacteria or other diseases found outside. Additionally, keeping your FIV cat indoors is responsible to prevent the spread of the disease should your cat get into a fight with another cat.
Is there any treatment or special care for FIV cats?
- Reduce Stress
Stress causes illness in cats and humans, and while it may seem that there isn’t much that could stress out spoiled housecats, it actually doesn’t take much for cats to get stressed. most cats like their familiar routines, so anything out of the ordinary, whether it’s another new cat, a move, home renovations, or even a change in the position of household furnishings, can cause them to feel stressed. In addition to changes in the environment, your stress can also have a negative impact on your cat, to the point of making them ill.
- Support your cat’s immune system
Keeping your cat’s immune system strong requires a multipronged approach, and includes the following:
- Feed a species appropriate, minimally processed diet grain-free canned or homecooked diet. Raw diets are not recommended for FIV+ cats.
- Add quality supplements to boost the immune system, such as probiotics, digestive enzymes, and anti-oxidants.
- Minimize vaccinations.
- Don’t use chemical flea and tick prevention products.
- Limit exposure to toxic chemicals in your cat’s environment.
- Avoid overuse of steroids and/or antibiotics.
- Reiki and other energy therapies can help reduce stress and strengthen the immune system
- Homeopathy and herbal remedies
Homeopathic remedies and herbal supplements can help strengthen the immune system. Please use these remedies under the guidance of a trained veterinary homeopath or herbalist.
- Regular veterinary exams
FIV+ cats should receive veterinary check ups at least once a year, regardless of their age. In between exams, it’s important that cats are monitored closely for even subtle signs of illness. Symptoms such as loss of appetite, weight loss, poor hair coat, diarrhoea, or vomiting require veterinary attention.Even though FIV is a serious condition, it is by no means a death sentence. Holistic treatments, when used in conjunction with regular veterinary care, can help keep your FIV+ cat happy and healthy for many years.
Sadly, before proper studies were conducted, cats and kittens with a positive FIV test were either euthanized or lived their entire lives in a no-kill shelter (if they were lucky). Today, as science dispels the fear, more people are willing to adopt a FIV cat and slowly introduce them into their cat family. If you’re considering adopting a cat – consider a FIV positive cat – and help to debunk this myth!
Learn more about FIV here: http://bestfriends.org/feline-immunodeficiency-virus.aspx and here: http://www.catster.com/lifestyle/cat-health-tips-shouldnt-fear-fiv-in-cats-feline-immunodeficiency-virus.