Your Cat Has FIV: What To Know

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It’s time to bring an animal into your home and you have decided to get a cat. You’re not a fan of the breeding practices so you go for the “Adopt, Don’t Shop” method and head down to your local ASPCA or animal shelter. You’ve met a lot of animals, but the cat you’re really connecting with has a disease. You might love the cat, but are probably unsure about taking home a cat with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. It shouldn’t be a reason that you don’t take the cat home, and here are a few reasons why. 

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, otherwise known as FIV, is an auto-immune disorder that is transmitted through a virus. Some potential cat parents can be put off by a diagnosis like this one and may make the decision not to move forward with the adoption of the cat. Still, with a little bit of knowledge and an optimistic attitude, owning a cat with FIV is just about the same as a cat with no known health issues. If you love the cat, who cares that it has a disease?

However, there are a few things you should consider when you’re adopting a cat with FIV. It is an immune disorder like HIV, but it’s colloquial name “feline AIDS” isn’t exactly accurate. It isn’t transmitted sexually very commonly. Still, it does have many of the characteristics of HIV. It is essentially the same disorder for cats, although it is less deadly than AIDS. Below are some details about this disease you should know about, and how best to care for the animal. If you find the right cat, you won’t mind caring for it. 

Respiratory Conditions May Arise 

One of the main concerns when owning a cat with FIV is that they may be more prone to respiratory issues than a cat without underlying health conditions. The cat’s lungs will be fragile. You definitely don’t want to smoke in your home. Even burning incense could irritate their delicate airways, so diffusing essential oils should be avoided.

These smoky smells are too detrimental to your feline friend. You should know that not only cats with FIV are susceptible to oil diffusers, they all are. The reason for this is that cats are incapable of metabolizing essential oils and can lead to organ failure. An immunocompromised cat would succumb more easily to anything bad for the lungs. 

If You Already Have Other Cats 

The reality is, if you already have other cats that are not FIV positive, the new adoption poses little to no harm to your existing pets. You should consult with your veterinarian or staff at the shelter before having multiple cats in your home, but unlike HIV sexual transmission is not common. One way the cat could transmit their FIV to another would be through a deep puncture wound. The transmission would likely only occur during a fight. If the pet you already own can be aggressive, or the shelter tells you the FIV positive cat doesn’t get along with other cats, then, unfortunately, they may not be a good fit for your home. 

Realistically though, multiple cats could live with one another without the positive cat transmitting their illness to the other cats. If you have different breeds of animals like dogs or rabbits, there is no concern about them catching FIV from the positive pet. Additionally, you cannot catch HIV from a cat with FIV. 

Prone to Other Health Issues

Like any immune-compromised human being, FIV-positive cats are more prone to complications from additional health issues. Typically these manifest in the forms of infections (bacterial or viral), weight loss, respiratory disease, diarrhea, and vomiting. 

In general, though, your FIV companion will live the same healthy life your other pets will if you provide them with a stable home and regular veterinary care. If you are a worrier or just a fan of technology, using a product like smart cat litter that can alert you to health issues the cat might have. Research different types of cat litter and find one you trust and that best suits you and your new cat’s needs.

Keep Stress Levels Low 

It goes without saying that many cats prefer things nice and quiet and stick to their routines–their favorite armchair or the perfect spot on the living room floor where the sun hits just right. Cats are also great at letting you know when they want their needs met–like food, water, cleaning their litter box, and toy time. You may not want to adopt an FIV positive cat if you would describe your household as “chaotic” or “hectic.” Stress can lower any healthy individual’s immune system and your FIV positive companion needs all the support they can get.  But, if you’re taking on the responsibility of owning a pet, you should already be checking those boxes and thinking about these things.

FIV cats were once considered “unadoptable,” and were euthanized in shelters upon diagnosis. That is a sad fact considering we now know that they typically live the same lifespan as a cat that does not have that diagnosis, and illness can eventually befall any pet we own. 

So, if you meet and connect with an FIV-positive cat while looking for a new furbaby, please don’t let the diagnosis throw you off; you could just have met a new beloved companion and a new best friend! Not only could you have a new companion to keep you company, say hello when you come home, or even just an ever-elusive presence that comforts you, owning and caring for a cat is a great part of life. 

The fact that you will also be supporting an animal that has a disease is an added bonus. You will be supporting a cat that would have been euthanized in the past. Instead, you will be giving the cat a great life and providing the health care and regimen that it needs to survive longer. You will be doing the right thing, and that’s always a good thing. 

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