FIV ( Feline Immunodeficiency Virus): AIDS in Cats

AIDS is very well known in humans but feline can have too. There scientifically differences HIV and FIV which is really important for cat owners to know as general health facts.

FIV Feline Immunodeficiency Virus

The meaning of FIV

FIV is the short term for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus which can cause Acquire Immune Deficiency Syndrome ( AIDs) in cats.This virus is retrovirus which derives from the same family with human HIV and also related to Feline Leukemia Virus.Just like HIV, the FIV destroy the immune system and antigen production in the kitty so other diseases can enter easily without proper strong immunity. Depending on the different viral envelop nucleotide sequences, there 5 sub-types in FIV family. But AIDS syndromes can be caused by only one Lentivirus which is not primitive among those 5 sub-types.


Although feline Immunodeficiency virus does not make direct fetal disease, it acts as the medium for clearing the path for the entrance of other fatal diseases by breaking the natural body immune system.The affected cat may live few years by accepting several diseases which were not generally resisted before.The infected kitty can stay in normal life without showing any symptoms because it doesn’t have own symptoms but when other outside illnesses come, the poor fur baby will lose natural resistance from the body that meant easily sick again and again instead of recovery.

The virus was first indicated by Dr.Smith from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 1986. FIV was first called Feline T-lymphotropic virus (FTLV). After the first research of Dr.Smith, it was recognized in the worldwide cat population.It has been mistaken with FELV. They may be similar due to the same family but not identical.

Transmission and contagious of FIV in cats

This is very common in feral and house kitties around the world.This virus cannot transmit by body contact because it stays in the blood, saliva and other mucosal places such as genitals, rectum etc. The furry fella may have higher chance to be infected if he is a free outdoor kitty and having occasionally fighting outside.

The FIV transfer cat to cat by mating, blood and saliva from biting via wound.75% of the infected population are males as females are less in the chance of being contagious.If you have multiple fur babies in the home, contacting normally each other will not be a problem unless they started to fight or have sex.

If pregnant mother kitty got FIV, kittens will be transmitted from the mother via uterus.Humans extremely scare to take care of AIDS kitties as they fear to touch HIV patients. As the result, FIV positive cats are being abandoned and left to die slowly by owners instead of taking responsibility for own pet. These two viruses are from same family but kind of different via some genetic strands.Therefore it feline virus cannot transmit to human anyhow as it cannot survive in human host except feline family which means it is found in not only domesticated ones but also in tiger, lion, leopard, panther too.

Clinical Symptoms and lifespan

The Feline Immunodeficiency Virus attaches to white blood cells from the nearby lymph node of the main way when it enters.Generally, it hosts in antibody-producing white blood cells such as CD4+ and CD8+ T lymphocyte, B lymphocyte and Macrophages.It destroys the white blood cells and multiplies after injecting its viral RNA inside cell’s DNA strands.It is the way how FIV transfer cell to cell by multiplying the quantity.

As we know that those white blood cells produce the antibody which we normally call body immune system.Its duty is to fight back incoming typical diseases like fever, minor infections etc.If there are no white cells, no immune system to resist even those minor diseases which are now severe and lethal.There are three stages which are the initial or acute stage, latent stage, and the final stage. The initial phrase occurs 4 to 6 weeks after being infected. Lymph nodes will swell to little or big size (Lymphadenopathy), fever, lethargy etc.It is not hard to notice fever but you cannot see swollen lymph nodes if they are not large enough to see or feel with hands.You can also notice the feline fever by nasal or eye discharge, sneezing, loss of appetite, weakness, uncontrolled urinating outside the litter box.

If you ever see those symptoms, need to show the kitty to the vet emergency.This is the temporary stage.But the latent phrase may last months to years depending on the medical care,primal body resistant, age because cats without medical support, senior age, feral can survive only for months but feline with proper medical care can live as normal healthy one for years through the general lifespan of an infected cat is 5 years maximum by clinical research.In this second stage, there will be no sign of severe or noticeable diseases.

The final stage is called Feline Acquire Immune Deficiency Syndromes (FAIDS).In this stage, kitty will loose most the immunity and start to get incoming other diseases and finally death.The general overall clinical signs are fever, Lymphadenopathy, fever, gum inflammation, weight loss, lack of appetite, lethargy, diarrhea, eyes diseases, respiratory diseases, neurological diseases, skin infections etc.

Diagnosis and Vaccination

There are different types of tests to diagnose the virus and the FIV going through by the blood test which detects the presence of antibodies to the FIV. The antibodies can be detected by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA ) as the screening and Western blot as a confirm.

The vet will also check other clinical signs and background history of a cat.All these tests may not guarantee for giving an accurate answer of positive or negative.Sometimes the result can be positive just by detecting own antibodies instead of actual virus but the really infected cat may have very fewer antibodies to test result. Generally, 5 to 10 weeks take for the appearance of antibodies but it takes 12 to 16 weeks after birth to get a positive result in young children.

Once kitty got an actual positive result, he should the for with proper vaccine and extra care.Keep your infected feline indoor to avoid contact with other cats and diseases.Keep him happy and do not neglect with fear and disgust. Regular medical care by a vet is necessary.Sometimes drug for HIV such as Antiviral drug AZT is used on cat successfully but it can have some side effects.If the infected kitty shows any secondary diseases, the treatment should be focused on those related diseases.

The sick pets need full caring and love from owners but some abandoned them heartlessly.it is better to take care of them as we have to love our own fur babies.I will continue post more common diseases in cats one by one in health category for clinical knowledge.

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