Adopting a cat with feline immunodeficiency virus

Adopting a cat with feline immunodeficiency virus

Seeing feline immunodeficiency virus or FIV on a cat’s adoption bio can be an immediate red flag for prospective pet parents. Like many chronic animal conditions, there are fears and assumptions associated with this diagnosis. Will they live a long and healthy life? Is my family at risk of catching this virus? If I have other cats, dogs or pets, can they get sick if I bring this cat into my home?

Here’s the truth: a cat with FIV could be the perfect cat for you and your family. If you form a connection with a cat, don’t consider them out of the running because of their virus status! We answered a few common questions to help you determine if your family could lovingly adopt an FIV-positive cat. 

Can a cat live a healthy life after an FIV diagnosis?

Yes. The most recent data shows that the lifespan of a household cat with FIV is not significantly different from that of a household cat without FIV. However, cats with FIV have an increased likelihood of developing several blood diseases and cancers, so it’s important to closely monitor your cat for changes in appetite, appearance and behavior.

Does owning a cat with FIV require additional veterinary care?

Proper animal care requires regularly scheduled veterinary visits, and the same can be said about cats with FIV. There is no cure for FIV, and while antiviral medications are being studied, none have been definitively proven to increase the lifespan of FIV-positive cats. This is why twice-annual checkups are recommended for cats with FIV. During these visits, your vet will check your cat’s vital organs, skin, gums and coat for any signs of distress. They will also ask you about behavior changes, so take careful notes if you notice your cat doing something out of the ordinary. 

How does FIV spread?

Biting is the most common way to transmit FIV from one cat to another. It does not live on surfaces for very long, and is not transmitted well during casual, friendly contact. For these reasons, feral and outdoor cats have an increased risk of contracting FIV because they are more likely to engage in predatory behavior with other cats. Sexual contact between cats is not a significant source of FIV transmission. 

Can FIV be transmitted to other animals or humans?

Though the name and virus are similar, FIV is different from HIV. It can only infect felines – so people, dogs and other animals in your household are not at risk for FIV. Studies show that cats cohabitating in the same household can, but rarely do, contract FIV from housemates. Households with healthy social relationships among cats – households where cats get along and don’t fight – have a low risk for transmission. However, we can’t be around at all times, and there is a chance for feline infection when bringing an FIV-positive cat into your home.

With all of this information in mind, adopting a cat with FIV may not be the right choice for you. As with adopting any animal, there are special considerations you must take into account. But, adopting a cat with FIV does not pose any harm to you or your family, especially if you do not have other cats at home. 

When you adopt a cat with FIV, you are saving a life by giving a second chance to an animal that’s been counted out. At the Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby County, we often have cats available for adoption who are FIV positive. One of them could be the perfect cat for you. Learn more about available, adoptable cats on our website

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