Approximately 2% of cats in the United States are infected with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) which is a retrovirus that is very similar to the human AIDS virus. Cats that are diagnosed with FIV need to receive special care because the disease is ultimately fatal. Nevertheless, cat owners needn’t view FIV as an automatic death sentence for their cat. In fact, with proper diet and treatment, FIV positive cats can live a relatively normal life.
First let’s take some time to understand how FIV is transmitted. In most cases, this virus is passed from the host through saliva to blood contact. This means that cat fights tend to be the main method through which FIV is spread; however, there are other methods. While unlikely, cats can contract FIV by sharing food or water with previously infected cats and the mother cat can pass FIV to her kittens during gestation, birth, or nursing. As a cat owner, it is your responsibility to protect your cat from this virus. Because the main method of transmission is biting, many veterinarians recommend keeping your cat indoors, especially if your cat is infected with FIV.
If your cat has been infected with FIV, you’ll need to visit a veterinarian and work out a program to control the symptoms of the illness. Usually, your veterinarian will suggest an aggressive treatment that includes a high protein diet and constant monitoring of secondary infections. Indeed, since FIV doesn’t lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome as often as HIV does with humans, the biggest risk for FIV positive cats are infections of the bladder, skin, and respiratory system. Generally speaking, your vet will recommend foods for your cat that are rich with vitamins, antioxidants, and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. Be careful not to give foods unsafe foods to your cat. Flea control is another important element of treatment as fleas can also carry the FIV virus. Most importantly, remember that your FIV positive cat is no risk to your family and that with careful treatment your cat will life a happy, healthy life.