FIV, also known as feline AIDS, is a disease that affects domestic cats and many other feline species around the world. The disease is often feared because it is compared to human AIDS and there is still no cure.
According to Pet Care Hospital veterinarian Vanice Allemand, feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is a virus specific to the cat family. It is similar to HIV (human immunodeficiency virus, the cause of AIDS in humans) in that it attacks and weakens the immune system. “But it’s worth remembering that being FIV positive is not the same as feline AIDS (feline acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). A positive diagnosis means your cat is infected with the virus, but it can take years for your cat to develop the clinical signs known as feline AIDS. This often does not happen,” he emphasizes.
Does IVF pass to humans? And for other cats?
The vet explains that although HIV is in the same family of viruses as FIV, the two viruses infect different species. “HIV only infects humans and FIV only infects cats. There is no risk of cross-contamination between feline and human immunodeficiency viruses,” he demystifies.
However, transmission between cats does occur and it is essential to understand how it occurs. According to the professional, the virus can be transmitted through saliva or blood, in several ways:
- When cats are not neutered, they can acquire the infection by mating
- through deep bites and scratches during a fight
- between mothers and pups through direct nursing or transplacental contact
How do you know if a cat has FIV?
IVF is diagnosed, Vanice says, through blood tests that detect antibodies against the virus. “The rapid test is called ELISA (Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent Assay). A positive test result means that the cat has produced antibodies and is likely to have and have been infected with the virus,” he points out.
The result, however, is not always final:
- Puppies born to an infected mother may receive maternal antibodies through their milk, causing a false positive result. Therefore, if the kittens test positive before the age of four months, the kittens should be retested at six months, when the maternal antibodies will have disappeared.
- It can take up to eight weeks for a cat to develop antibodies against FIV. Therefore, a newly infected feline may show a false negative result.
- If a cat is diagnosed as positive in the ELISA test, the results must be confirmed by retesting or sending a blood sample for PCR. If this is the case for your cat, consult a veterinarian to find out how and when to take your kitten for a repeat test.
Can an FIV cat live with other cats?
According to the vet, IVF is rarely spread by sharing food, water and litter boxes. However, as the risk is not inexistent, coexistence between infected and uninfected animals is not recommended. “In the case of FIV-positive kittens, they can live with other HIV-positive felines peacefully. If your cat has not been tested, ideally it should not be placed with other cats,” she advises.
FIV positive cats have a reduced immune response. As such, they have more difficulty recovering from certain illnesses and are subject to opportunistic secondary infections. “Diseases that a cat would normally be cured of can be a problem or become chronic, such as enteritis, gingivitis, dermatitis, respiratory diseases and encephalitis,” he states.
But IVF is not a proposal!
It is worth emphasizing that there is still no feline AIDS vaccine in Brazil. The best way to prevent the disease is to have the cat examined before mixing it with other felines in the home, and to ensure that it does not have street access.
Source: Pet Care, adapted from the Cães e Gatos VET FOOD team.