AIDS vs. FIV

FIV-positive kitten may just carry maternal antibodies. Either way, he's due for neutering.

By J. Veronika Kiklevich, DVM | Posted: Tue Jan 4 00:00:00 PST 2005

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Q. My 6-month-old kitten is HIV-positive. I'm concerned that if I decide to neuter my kitten, he might die because of the AIDS virus. 

I know about the undesirable traits an adult male cat exhibits, such as spraying and aggressive behavior with other toms. However, my kitten will be raised strictly indoors, so he does not expose other cats to the virus.

My veterinarian suggested that once my kitten is neutered, I should feed him canned cat food, because it contains more water and is leaner than conventional dry foods. My veterinarian also said to keep my cat very lean, as research shows that excess weight aggravates neutered cats. 

Is there an alternative for neutering to eliminate spraying and aggression? In the past, my neutered cats developed feline urinary syndrome after surgery. I've spent hundreds of dollars on food, medication and veterinary visits, in hope of proper urination. After losing several cats to such urinary problems, I cannot go through this agony again with my new kitten.

A. Your cat has FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus), not HIV an important distinction. Although the viruses are from a similar family (retroviruses), FIV is specific to felines, and HIV is specific to humans. This also means that your cat cannot transmit the disease to you or any other human. He can, however, transmit it to other cats, so I commend your socially responsible stance of keeping him indoors.

As it turns out, maternal antibody for FIV can persist in kittens sometimes a bit beyond 6 months of age. When I have a kitten test positive at an early age for FIV, I recommend a second test 8 weeks later. If he is negative on the second test, then in all likelihood the first test was only picking up that persistent maternal antibody, and he is not infected with the virus. This scenario is not true with the other commonly recognized retroviruses, such as FeLV (feline leukemia virus).

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Reader Comments

Margo Ehrenfield-Hilbig    Wickliffe, OH

1/3/2011 11:51:18 AM

I found a stay semi-feral cat in the winter. I caught him in a love cage and have had him 5 years. He is FIV positive, but at this point is a loving happy cat. I have three other cats that have have been tested and are not FIV positive. As the humane societys euthanizes all FIV cats, I would like to know if what theie life expectancy is and warning signs to watch for. I have a friend whose FIV cat lived to be 14.

Carrie    Des moines, IA

10/16/2010 6:12:17 AM

AIDS and FIV are not Similar at all!!!! FIV is Similar to HIV. HIV is the virus which can cause aids. I have a Cat with FIV and she has lived a normal, healthy life.

Steve    Warwick, RI

10/29/2006 7:44:10 PM

Good response. However an important question wasn't addressed: Is there a safe alternative to neutering? I think this is what the poster wanted to know.

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