Cats are one of the rare animal species that can actually get a virus that attacks and destroys the immune system. Similar to HIV and AIDS within humans, FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus), also known as feline AIDS, was first discovered back in 1986 and can have the same symptoms and effects.
There is presently no cure for FIV, but it is possible to treat and there are measures you can take to avoid your cat getting the disease.
If your cat gets diagnosed with FIV, they can still live happily for many years if you follow veterinary advice to keep them healthy.
1. So, how is FIV transmitted?
FIV can only be passed from one cat to another cat, which means that cats can’t pass it to humans or other animals, and vice-versa. This means that if you have a FIV-positive cat and also a dog at home, your dog is in absolutely no danger of being infected.
FIV-positive and negative cats may also live together, as long as the two get on well together and are both neutered. FIV can be transmitted through contact with an infected cat’s blood, during mating, and from mother to kittens before they’re born.
Your cat won’t be able to catch it through mutual grooming, sharing a bowl or sharing a litter box.
The majority of cats who have FIV are fertile males who are allowed to go outside since they’re more likely to get into aggressive fights and come into contact with infected blood. 15% of stray cats have feline AIDS.
2. So, what are the symptoms of feline AIDS?
The symptoms of FIV are quite similar to those of many other sicknesses and can be difficult to spot. The incubation period for FIV is normally between four and six weeks, after which it will show itself in three stages:
– Acute stage: In the weeks following the infection, the cat may have a slight fever. The amount of white blood cells they have will fall and their lymph nodes swell. This phase can last for around two months and is generally when symptoms won’t be easily noticed.
– Latent stage: At this second stage, a diagnosis of HIV positive is made. The immune system will be slowly weakened, although this stage generally lasts between five and ten years.
– Clinical stage: The cat will certainly be at higher risk of illness as their immune system can no longer fight it off. The disease attacks their immune system, which weakens the cat until they become terminal. Blood cancers are relatively common at this point.
3. On diagnosing FIV
If you have a cat that is allowed to play outside and is likely to fight or breed with others, it may be important to have them tested.
Your veterinarian will surely be able to run a quick blood test to detect the disease. They take some blood from your cat, which is later analyzed in a procedure similar to a pregnancy test. The results are received just minutes later.
For kittens who are born to a FIV-positive mom, it is important to wait until they are at least three or four months old for the test to be reliable. Their antibodies are not yet stable prior to this age and the test results can change from week to week.
4. The treating and preventing feline AIDS
There is presently no cure or vaccine for FIV, making prevention crucial. It is very important to avoid risky contact between sick and healthy cats. Therefore, it is indeed recommended that you spay or neuter your cats and kittens, especially those with access to the outdoors, to avoid them fighting or mating with cats carrying the virus.
If your cat is HIV-positive, vaccinating them against common cat diseases can surely elp save their life by keeping him from getting sick. Your veterinarian will then be able to make sure your cat is healthy as he can be by treating the diseases they catch because of their weakened immune system.
FIV, just like feline cancer and typhus, is a serious illness that can frighten a concerned pet parent. However, by reacting quickly and knowing what to look out for, you can put them in the best position to live a happy life for years after being diagnosed.