FIV stands for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. And, just as the name suggests, felines that have this illness have compromised immune systems. But it is not as bad as it sounds. FIV cats can live quite a normal life and have a good quality of life for many years.
Signs of FIV
In its earliest stages, there are often few signs of FIV. However, as it progresses, FIV-positive cats may suffer from more illnesses than other felines. Other indicators of FIV include everything from frequent diarrhea and skin infections to gum inflammation and poor coat condition. If you suspect a cat may be suffering from FIV, it is important to have it consulted by veterinarian who can conduct blood work to determine a diagnosis.
How It Spreads
Although the virus typically manifests in outdoor cats, indoor cats can still be infected from deep bites. Unlike the immunodeficiency virus that affects humans primarily through sexual contact, FIV is only spread on rare instances through sexual contact. It should be noted, though, that it could sometimes pass from an infected mother to kitten during birth or feeding. Because the spreading of FIV can be fairly well controlled, many shelters like Wayside Waifs still adopt out FIV-positive cats to homes with other uninfected felines.
*Important Note: FIV is only transmittable cat to cat.*
Caring for FIV-positive Cats
Cats with FIV are immunosuppressed and will be more prone to secondary infections throughout their lifetime. Routine preventative care of all cats in the household and early recognition of secondary illnesses will be needed. Cats with FIV should get bi-annual examinations and annual bloodwork as recommended by the AAFP. Adopters should talk to their personal vet prior to adoption about what this means for their household (Adopters can discuss FIV vaccination of their personal cat with their personal vet). We recommend all adopters know the FIV/FELV status of their own cats prior to addition of the new cat. There is no cure for the illness, although there is research being done for various anti-viral therapies. FIV cats should remain an indoor only cat. How it spreads
Wayside Waif’s FIV Cat Program
Wayside’s FIV-positive cats are always given a room when an appropriate one is available. Typically, we try to house cats together when we can. The reason for this? To help eliminate any chance of illness spreading to them. While other cats can roam freely on the adoption floor, these cats can’t (unless they are the first ones out, after the floor has been sanitized).
The reason FIV cats are given a room is because we want their stay at WW to be as stress-free as possible. Since they can’t free roam at any given time, a room allows them to walk, play, stretch and be as relaxed as possible. We often house FIV cats together because they often are happier with a pal.
In 2014, we had 27 adoptable FIV-positive cats. So far, in 2015 we have six (one was adopted a couple weekends ago). Since the program started in 2011, we have had a total of 95.
About Our FIV Supervisor
Meet Bonnie. She has been working at Wayside Waifs since 2009. She started out as a volunteer, but when a position in Feline Comfort Crew came up, she applied and got the job! Soon, she became Supervisor, then Manager. Now she is responsible for the care of all the cats and small mammals (guinea pigs, rabbits, etc…). She also oversees the staff that cares for them, and has several volunteers that help in various roles.
She also oversees the Barn Cat Program, the ASPCA Meet Your Match program for cats, and TABBY (To Achieve the Best Behavior Yet) – a program where trained volunteers help cats in the holding areas to be prepared for the adoption floor (working with shy/fearful cats, over-stimulated cats, or cats desperate for attention). Recently, Bonnie even received a specialized certificate in Feline Training and Behavior from the Animal Behavior Institute.
FIV Cat Spotlight
Chairman Meow has been at Wayside Waif’s since October of 2014, but has been in a shelter environment for over a year. He was transferred to us from another shelter. Despite his name, Chairman Meow hasn’t always had the attention he deserves. Although we do our best to provide all the cats in our car with the attention they deserve, Chairman is in need of a forever home with a family who will provide him with the full-time affection he deserves. In fact, he is such a friendly cat that he will sometimes give you a nudge of encouragement to give him love.
Want to hear more? Learn more about Chairman Meow here – or better yet, pay him a visit!
FIV cats need special care. Think you can help one in need?
Your FIV-positive forever cat is just one visit away.