Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is a dreaded diagnosis in cats. You’ve probably heard that FIV is similar to HIV in humans, and that it infects between 1 and 3 percent of cats in the United States. But beyond those facts, you might also have heard quite a few myths. We’ll be happy to separate fact from fiction for you, so that you have the information you need to care for your cats.
Myth #1: Healthy cats probably don’t have FIV, so you don’t need to test for it.
Most cats can carry FIV for some time before symptoms show up. So yes, all cats should be tested for FIV, especially if they go outside around other cats. This is especially true if your cat comes home with a wound from a fight.
Myth #2: FIV is highly contagious.
FIV is indeed a serious disease, but luckily it is not easily transferred from one cat to another. It is only transferred via deep bite wounds, so you don’t need to worry about food and water bowls, grooming, or casual contact with other cats.
Myth #3: If a cat has FIV, it can’t live with other cats.
Technically, this myth could be classified as “sometimes true”. Since FIV can be transmitted by bite wounds, an FIV-positive cat that is prone to fighting should not be kept with others who are FIV-negative. And of course, that works in reverse; if an FIV-negative cat has a feisty temperament and is likely to instigate a fight, he or she could provoke a bite that transfers the virus.
However, cats that get along well can be housed together, with very little worry of viral transmission.
Myth #4: If my cat tests positive for FIV, she’s going to die young.
In many cases this is untrue. Yes, your cat is now at higher risk, but many FIV-positive cats live long and happy lives. Quite a few who are infected with FIV never develop symptoms. So, continue to provide routine veterinary care to your kitty, and remember to ask us if you have any more questions about FIV. We’ll do our best to help your feline friend thrive.