Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is an incurable cat disease that attacks and weakens the feline's body just as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) does to people. FIV makes the cat more susceptible to infections and diseases and will eventually be fatal to the cat. It's possible for a FIV-positive cat to live for many years without any signs of symptoms of illness, but if the cat does get an infection, the infection is often fatal since the body is unable to fight it.

The Animal Health Channel reports that as many as three percent of cats in the United States are infected with FIV. The illness occurs worldwide. About five percent of HIV cats also have feline leukemia virus (FeLV).

What Types of Cats Get It?

Outdoor male cats tend to get FIV more often. It's more common in older cats and the average age a cat is diagnosed with the illness is at five years old. Sick cats tend to be more susceptible to the virus and American veterinarians report that about 15 percent of outdoor cats with clinical signs of another illness also have FIV.


FIV is not spread through sexual contact unlike HIV which is generally spread through sexual intercourse or sexual activities and blood. The feline virus is transmitted through deep bit wounds between aggressive cats. Since non- neutered male cats tend to be more aggressive and territorial, they're the ones that get FIV more often. It is possible for female cats to get it as well. If a female cat becomes pregnant, she can pass the illness to her kittens through passage down the birth canal or through her infected milk.

The Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine says that it's possible for a kitten born from an FIV-positive mother to test positive for several months after birth without actually becoming infected. If you have a kitten younger than six months, and the kitten tests positive, it's a good idea to repeat the test every two months until the kitten reaches seven months to make sure you're not getting a false positive reading.

FIV can be transmitted by contaminated blood between cats. It cannot be transmitted from felines to other animals or from cats to humans. It is possible for some parasites and bacteria that cause infections in FIV-positive cats to be transmitted to humans and cause illness especially in those with compromised immune systems.

Signs of the Illness

Some of the earliest signs include generalized enlargement of the lymph nodes and a fever. The swelling usually goes unnoticed unless exceptionally large. As the disease progresses, symptoms include loss of appetite, inflammation of the gums and mouth, poor coat condition, persistent fever, infections of the urinary bladder, skin and upper respiratory tract, eye conditions, persistent diarrhea, initially slow and persistent weight loss, reproductive failures in unsprayed females, and occasionally seizures and neurological disorders.