Adopting an FIV-positive cat or finding out your furball has FIV can be worrying. However, with the proper knowledge, you can help them live a comfortable life. This post discusses everything owners need to know about caring for an FIV-positive cat.

Feline immunodeficiency virus: What is it?

Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is one of many cat diseases worldwide. It's a retrovirus infection that primarily attacks a cat's immune system. Often compared to HIV, an FIV-positive cat is at extreme risk of secondary illnesses. This is because the virus damages or kills a cat's white blood cells leading to a weakened immune system.

Many cats with FIV don't show signs of the virus until later in life. Unfortunately, there's no known cure for FIV. Instead, your vet will focus on trying to keep secondary infections at bay. As there are several virus strains, an FIV-positive cat's life span varies. Some experts believe cats with this disease will live for up to five years after diagnosis. However, this changes from one cat to another.

Is FIV the same as feline AIDs?

Many pet parents wonder if an FIV-positive cat has feline AIDs. This isn't the case. While both conditions attack the immune system, FIV is the virus responsible for causing feline AIDs. However, this can happen years after the initial infection. If your cat is FIV-positive, this doesn't mean they're carrying feline AIDs.

How is cat FIV transmitted? Are my other pets at risk?

The feline immunodeficiency virus is typically transmitted through an infected cat's saliva. If an FIV-positive cat bites another animal and saliva gets into the wound, its opponent has a high risk of infection. It can also be passed through other means, such as a pet coming into contact with FIV-positive blood or via sexual transmission.

Pet parents must keep cats with FIV indoors. If you have other cats at home, there may be a slight chance they could become infected. Yet, this is only the case if your pets are aggressive toward each other. It's best to get your other cats tested for FIV to be on the safe side. In rare cases, an infected mother cat can cause the virus to her kittens.

FIV-positive cat: Signs and symptoms

How can cat parents tell if their fur babies have FIV or not? As we mentioned, many cats with FIV are asymptomatic for months, if not years, after the initial infection. Pet parents will only notice signs of FIV when the virus is in its last stage. Any symptoms evident are caused by secondary infections.

FIV symptoms can be any of the following:

  • poor coat condition;
  • fever;
  • fatigue;
  • weight loss;
  • poor appetite;
  • salivation;
  • diarrhea;
  • recurrent infections in skin, eyes, or bladder;
  • behavior changes;
  • weakness;
  • conjunctivitis;
  • gingivitis;
  • seizures;
  • swollen lymph nodes.

Any cat that has chronic or recurrent infections out of the blue should be brought to the vet and tested for FIV. While other conditions may be responsible, they could be a sign of the feline immunodeficiency virus.

Treatment options for FIV in cats

As there's no cure for this virus, pet parents can create a management plan with their vets to keep their fur babies healthy. The goal is to prevent secondary infections. While some cats have been treated successfully with human anti-HIV drugs, this isn't a widespread practice. Treatment options will vary depending on your cat's health and condition.

In some situations, antioxidants and drugs to stimulate the immune system can be beneficial. Other vets may resort to alternative treatment options, such as:

  • medications targeting secondary infections;
  • fluid and electrolyte replacement therapy;
  • parasite control;
  • routine pet care exams, e.g., blood work and urinalysis tests;
  • nutritional diet.

How to care for an FIV-positive cat

Although getting the FIV diagnosis is upsetting for any pet owner, you can give your cat a long and healthy life with the proper care. If you're wondering what to do now, you aren't alone. Here's the best way to care for your FIV-positive cat.

Regular vet visits

Cats with FIV need to go to the vet more often than non-FIV cats. You should schedule a vet visit every six months. During these visits, your vet will perform physical examinations to track the virus's development. Will my cat need tests at every vet visit? No, they won't.

However, your cat must receive various diagnostic tests once or twice yearly. These include biochemistry analysis, urinalysis, routine blood work, and fecal tests. Don't forget to book your feline friend for these vital pet care tests each year. Additionally, you'll need to keep on top of their parasite control. Many vets provide flea, tick, and heartworm prevention as part of cat wellness plans.

Spay or neuter your cat

If you haven't already done so, spay or neuter your cat. This is an effective way to prevent the virus from transmitting to other cats. It will reduce the chance of your cat transmitting FIV through mating and curb your male cat's desire to roam and fight. Many vets carry out this procedure daily. However, it's important to remember most pet insurance for cats plans don't cover spaying and neutering costs.

Give a nutritional and balanced diet

Lifestyle plays a significant factor in the management of FIV-positive cats. As part of their lifestyle needs, pet parents must feed them a nutritious and balanced diet. While your vet will be able to recommend the best types of food, aim for an easily digestible diet. Additionally, you should avoid uncooked meats and dairy at all costs—this reduces the risk of food-borne infections.

Ideally, the perfect diet for an FIV cat should counteract the symptoms they suffer from. For example, if your cat's having recurrent kidney problems, you'll need to give them a low-protein diet. Remember, you'll need to adjust their diet as the FIV progresses. As long as you aim for a diet that provides all the nutrients and minerals your cat needs, they'll have a happy tummy.

Keep them indoors

Keep FIV cats indoors. This reduces the likelihood of them infecting other cats in your neighborhood. It can also help you control their risk of infections and illnesses as their immune system weakens. While confining your feline companion inside all day can be hard to do as a pet parent, it's necessary.

Are you worried your cat will get bored? This commonly happens among indoor cats. However, there are plenty of cat boredom busters you can turn to, such as providing them with a scratching post or buying engaging cat toys.

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