Although feline immunodeficiency virus is found worldwide, it’s not as common as you may think. Only 2.5-5% of cats are actually infected with the virus. Since FIV was first found in 1986, fear, misunderstanding, misconception, and a lack of education about the feline immunodeficiency virus, or FIV, has resulted in the euthanization of thousands of cats (millions if you count euthanization at animal shelters).
Myth#1: Feline Immunodeficiency is Airborne
The feline immunodeficiency virus isn’t airborne, and it can’t be spread by sharing a litter box or feeding dish. It takes a major altercation for a FIV+ cat to infect a FIV negative cat. FIV is propagated by intact toms battling over territory, who inflict deep, nasty bite wounds.
The majority of the time, FIV is passed down from mother to kittens, and even then, a positive test could just signify that the kitten has FIV antibodies but won’t show any symptoms of the disease throughout his or her lifetime.
A kitten born to an FIV mother will inherit her antibodies but not the virus, so even if they test positive for FIV, they are unlikely to be infected. Over the course of several months, the kitten will shed their mother’s antibodies and test negative for FIV.
Myth #2: FIV+ Cats Can’t Be Near Other Pets
An FIV+ cat can be in a household with other cats. As long as the cats get along, there shouldn’t be any concern having them together with one another. FIV is transferred in severe altercations, so play time isn’t often a concern.
If you are concerned about bringing your FIV+ cat home to your ‘healthy’ cat, you can take an extra step and vaccinate your current cat against FIV beforehand.
As far as other dogs and pets, FIV is a feline condition and isn’t transmitted across species. Contrary to popular belief, humans, dogs, and other pets cannot contract the disease from a FIV+ cat.
Myth #3: All FIV Cats Die Young
According to research, most FIV cats survive as long as their indoor counterparts (13-18 years), if not longer, than cats who live outside (3-8 years). Many FIV+ cats have been observed to live long into their senior years without ever presenting any symptoms.
The largest concern is their inability to fight infections or illnesses as well as cats without the condition. Many FIV cats do not display any signs of illness or infection throughout their lifetimes. Cat owners who keep their FIV+ cats indoors all of the time can help keep them safe. This keeps FIV+ cats safe, happy, and healthy by preventing them from contracting any viruses or diseases that may be prevalent in outdoor cat populations.
Another reason for this misconception involves the confusion between FIV and Feline AIDS. FIV and Feline AIDS are frequently interchanged, which is inaccurate. FIV has the potential to develop into an illness akin to AIDS in humans, but this would only happen in the late stages of a FIV cat’s life, if at all.
Myth #4: It’s Only Important to Test Cats Who Show Symptoms
The most prevalent FIV symptoms in cats are that their immune systems are slightly weakened, and they are occasionally prone to dental disease. It’s not what the general public has painted it to be. FIV+ aren’t frequently wandering around ill and you often can’t even tell if a cat is FIV+ without them first being tested. They act just as any other cat would.
Of course, it’s still important for all cats to be tested so you can be prepared. If your cat hasn’t been tested, you can schedule an appointment with your vet through the PetDesk app. Even if your cat isn’t displaying any symptoms, it’s good to know if your cat is FIV+.
Myth 5: FIV Cats Shouldn’t Be Adopted
When someone arrives at a shelter with an FIV-positive cat, they are often overlooked due to the above misconceptions. However, they can be adopted just as any other cat can if the rescue organization is willing. Unfortunately, many cats who are FIV+ are euthanized, if not immediately then soon after to make room for cats in ‘good health.’ If you do adopt an FIV-positive cat, it’s recommended that they remain an indoor-only pet.
Every cat has their own distinct personality. FIV-positive cats are no exception. There’s no reason these cats shouldn’t be a part of someone’s family because they can live long, healthy lives. Even if you choose not to adopt an FIV+ cat, educating the public and clarifying these misconceptions is key to their survival and may increase their chances of finding loving homes.