5 Facts About FIV

CatChannel and CAT FANCY veterinary expert Arnold Plotnick, DVM, discusses five important things to know about feline immunodeficiency virus.

By Arnold Plotnick, DVM | Posted: August 10, 2012, 10 a.m. EST

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Tuxedo Cat
An FIV vaccine is available for cats.
Q: I'd like information on feline AIDS. I know it is contracted by bodily fluids, from cat to cat. Can people get it from a cat, too? Can a cat get it if another cat has been in my house that later is positive, although there has been no contact? Could it be in the carpet, etc.?

A:  Here are answers to your questions on the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV):
•    FIV is spread from cat to cat primarily by bite wounds. Casual contact, i.e. sharing food bowls, water bowls, litterboxes, mutual grooming, etc. is not believed to be risky for transmission.
•    FIV is species-specific; it affects cats only. Humans cannot contract the virus from an infected cat.
•    FIV cannot survive outside the body, in the carpet, etc. If an FIV positive cat has been in your apartment in the past, it poses absolutely no risk to any other cat that enters your apartment.
•    Outdoor cats who come into contact with other cats are at risk for contracting FIV. Free-roaming intact male cats are at the highest risk, as they are the most likely to get into territorial spats with other cats.
•    A vaccine is now available to protect cats against FIV. This vaccine confers good immunity, however, the vaccine will induce antibodies in the vaccinated cat. When a FIV test is run in the future, the cat will test positive, because the test detects antibodies in the bloodstream. If a vaccinated cat is tested for FIV and tests positive, there is no way to tell whether the antibodies that are detected are those that were induced by the vaccine, or by an actual FIV infection. (Actually, a test to distinguish between the two types of antibodies has been developed, but it is not widely available.)
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Reader Comments

Penny    Indianapolis, IN

6/23/2015 3:12:15 PM

I had my tux cat Oreo sense he was 5 years old now ten he has a heart murmer and he has fiv we love him very much he has a healthy appetite he lived on the street for 5 years when he came to me I told him he was beautiful and he came into my yard and jumped up in my arms and kissed my nose we became best buds we took him in I love this little guy he get all he wants he's happy with toys and treats I taught to shake my hand and he gives me high fives it's so cute my dr told me for someone who has fiv he looks great he loves also being brushed it helps relax him he loves to cuddle he lives a very good life with us.he like the gate keeper we put him outside on a leash I'm not far he runs off other cats he's inside and outside cat it took me a year to train him to be on a leash.

Karen    mesa az, AZ

6/9/2015 2:48:15 PM

I took in a cat, I fell in love with it and come to find out he had this and we had to have him put to sleep, It has been six months and I still think about him. So always get your new cat tested, it could be you.

Shirley    Tucson, AZ

11/8/2012 4:23:29 PM

Thank you.

Stephanie    Moon Twp, PA

9/1/2012 11:21:49 AM

There are five strains of FIV virus, called Clades. The vaccine was made using Clade A and D and tested using Clade A. Clade B, for example, is a very common strain in most regions of the U.S. and no testing of the vaccine has been performed thus far against Clade B. This means that pet owners might wrongly believe they were protecting their cat fully against the FIV virus with this vaccine.

The FIV vaccine is an adjuvanted vaccine. An adjuvant is an additive used with killed vaccines to improve their ability to stimulate the immune system. Unfortunately, adjuvanted vaccines have been implicated in the development of certain tumors in cats. (See more information on vaccine-associated sarcomas). Some veterinarians prefer not to use adjuvanted vaccines for cats and have no desire to administer a vaccine that stimulates tumor growth even under rare circumstances.

Vaccinated cats will test positive on all current methods of testing for the FIV virus. This means it will no longer be possible to distinguish vaccinated cats from truly infected cats. The vaccine is advertised as protecting 82% of cats, which means 18% can still be infected. This is nearly a one in five chance of unknowingly having an infected cat.
The American Association of Feline Practitioners does not recommend this vaccine for the above reasons. View their FIV Vaccine information.

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