Living With An FIV Cat
FIV Doesn't Mean Your Cat Has Feline AIDS!
The vet looks grim as he tells you the results of the SNAP test he's just done in his office. "Your cat," he says, "has feline AIDS." Your heart sinks. Is the stray cat you befriended going to die? Will he infect your other cats?
FIV, like human HIV, is a lentivirus that progresses very slowly and affects the immune system. Eventually, your cat may develop AIDS-like symptoms. But more likely, experts say, he'll die of old age before those symptoms ever appear. With good care, FIV cats can live for a very long time and have a great quality of life. These are some things to know about living with an FIV cat.
Redo The Test
The SNAP tests done in vet's offices look for antibodies to the FIV virus, not the virus itself. And the tests often return false positive results. FIV Cat Rescue says 20-36 percent of test results are incorrect. If your cat tests positive for FIV, ask your vet to send the blood to a lab for a more accurate Western Blot test.
Remember, your cat doesn't have AIDS now and probably never will. Why not let him lead a full and happy life.
Don't Isolate Him
FIV is transmitted only by deep bite wounds. Cats can't catch it from each other by sharing food and water bowls, using the same litter boxes or grooming each other. Unless your FIV cat and the others are going to fight and tear each other to shreds, there's no reason for him to have to live secluded in a room all by himself. FIV is transmitted only from cat to cat. Your cat can't give FIV to you!
Keep Him Healthy
Since your FIV cat's immune system is compromised, don't delay treating any wounds or illnesses, like an upper respiratory infection. If you foster, it would be best to not bring contagious cats into your house. Most vets insist on annual vaccinations. But do some research before you take him in for those "annual shots." Vaccinations could further weaken his immune system.
If one of your cats tests positive for FIV, and the others don't, don't vaccinate the negative ones. Once a cat is vaccinated for FIV, his tests will be positive for life
Feed Him Right
All cats benefit from a high-quality, species-appropriate diet, but that's especially important for cats with FIV. Support your cat's immune system by avoiding grain-laden junk foods, and encouraging him to eat an all-wet-food diet that consists of protein from animal sources.
"Homemade is best," veterinarian Jean Hofve writes for the Only Natural Pet Store blog. "But because of contamination problems in the meat-packing industry, it’s best to start out using cooked meat. As the cat becomes healthier, you can gradually transition to a raw diet if desired."
She also discourages giving FIV cats dry food because the carbohydrates in the grains and vegetables can stress the cat's liver, pancreas and immune system.
Add Some Supplements
These supplements could help your FIV cat. Ask your veterinarian or a holistic veterinarian about the best fit for your cat and the correct dosages. And don't start all of the supplements you're going to give at the same time. Let his body get used to one before adding another. Adding them slowly also lets you see how he reacts to each one and whether the latest addition will cause stomach upset or other problems.
Keep Things Clean
Dr. Hofve says it's important to keep food and water bowls and litter boxes clean so bacteria and other viruses can't take advantage of your FIV cat's already compromised immune system.
Make Life Stress-Free
Stress is one of the main triggers of illness in cats, so you want to keep your FIV cat's life as stress-free as possible. If you share your home with many cats, make sure everyone has enough personal space and easy access to food, water and litter boxes. And, despite what you'll read elsewhere online, don't force your indoor/outdoor or outdoor cat to live "strictly indoors" because you've just found out he has FIV. It's a myth, or perhaps a delusion on the caretaker's part, that indoor/outdoor and outdoor cats "get used" to living strictly indoors. Many don't, and are miserable and stressed.
Writing for her website, Pet Health Care Gazette.com, veterinarian Lorie Huston says many people "don't realize that living indoors presents challenges that are inherently stressful for a cat." Although her cats live strictly indoors, she acknowledges that cats who never go out are more prone to cystitis and other stress-related illnesses.
Remember, FIV is transmitted only by deep bite wounds, so if your cat doesn't fight, he's not going to infect other neighborhood cats if he goes outside. And he'll be healthier and happier if he can continue living the way he's used to living.
Things To Watch For
If your cat shows any of these symptoms, he should see a vet right away.
These websites will give you more information about FIV.
FIV Cat Rescue
Feline AIDS: A Pet Owner's Guide
FIVCats on Yahoo Groups
FIV-HealthScience on Yahoo Groups