Many people are surprised when they find out there is a feline version of AIDS. In many ways it is similar to the human version. Feline Immunodeficiency Virus or FIV is a fairly uncommon disease that affects cats throughout the world. About 1-3% of cats in the United States are infected with FIV. These are typically cats that are free roaming and unaltered. Cats that live indoors rarely have FIV.
Bite wounds are the usual way of transmission of FIV. This is why an altered cat living indoors is rarely seen with the disease. There have been mother cats that have transmitted the disease in the birth canal and through the mom's milk.
There are two simple ways to test for FIV. One is right in the vets office and takes 10 minutes. The vet draws some blood and places it in a snap or ELISA test. If the result in the office is inconclusive then the vet may send away a lab test which will provide results in a couple of days. However, just because a cat tests negative for FIV now does not mean that later it will still be negative. This test is a snapshot of time.
FIV affects the immune system and many cats will live with FIV for years without any symptoms. When the disease becomes active look for:
* A dull, drab coat
* A fever that does not go away
* Dental disease called stomatitis
* Upper respiratory and bladder infections
* Infections of the skin
* Rapid weight loss
As stated above even cats with FIV can live long lives. Keeping them indoors and stress free is one of the keys to longevity.
If you have a kitty that is healthy you will want to do everything you can to help that cat to stay disease free. Altering your cat and keeping it indoor is key. If you add another cat to the household be sure that it has been previously tested. Kittens under 6 months can be tested but should be retest after since there are many false negatives and positives. Lastly, consult with your vet to create a plan to keep all your animals healthy and disease free