Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)
Lynette adopted a cat in 2006 that is diabetic and FIV+, his name is Louie (Aloysius). He was diabetic when admitted to the shelter in 2003, and was estimated to be around 4 or 5 years old in 2003 - making him about 10 or 11 now (2009). Louie hasn't required any medical care beyond what Lynette would expect from an FIV- diabetic cat, other than one instance. His anal glands ruptured in 2008, and because his immune system is compromised, it took him longer to heal than what is "typical" in a situation like that. He's more likely to require antibiotics in any sort of situation involving a wound, dental, etc. He may be more likely to get an upper respiratory infection (cat's version of the common cold). FIV is very similar to HIV in humans - although FIV+ cats rarely develop the feline version of AIDS. It's one of the many reasons researchers often look at FIV+ cats in an attempt to determine why felines with FIV do so much better, on average, than humans with HIV. (A large number, perhaps the majority, of "big cats" like lions and tigers are FIV+.)
Louie grooms the FIV- boy cats in the home, "wrestles" with them, even humps one of them... and has minor fights with one of the girls. None of the other cats have contracted the virus.
Louie now has oral cancer, he was diagnosed in February 2009. That likely has NOTHING to do with him being FIV+. We thought he might be more susceptible to infection given his FIV+ status and the fact the mass is in his mouth (tons of nasty bacteria in there) but so far those fears have been unfounded - and he's done AMAZINGLY well. By comparison, another cat, FIV-, was diagnosed with oral cancer at the same vet's office about a week or two after Louie - it only lived a week or two... Louie's been doing well for three months so far which is pretty amazing.
They have FIV+ cats at the shelter where Lynette used to volunteer, generally about 50 at a time, and there was only ONE in the six years she volunteered there whose death MAY have been related to his FIV+ status. He was put on oral steroids for another condition and got ringworm and the steroids (suppressing his immune system) possibly worsened by his FIV+ status, he then got an upper respiratory infection (cold) and just could NOT recover, developed pneumonia, and had to be euthanized. However, Ralph is NOT FIV+ and he was a very similar case (put on steroids, got ringworm, could not recover, slated for euthanasia) so that cat's death may not have been related to his FIV+ status at all. So, despite living in a SHELTER environment and being exposed to all kinds of stuff, almost ALL the FIV+ cats at the shelter lived full normal lives - as long as the non-FIV+ cats. None of the FIV+ cats at the shelter ever progressed to develop feline AIDS.
Also, unless the cats are aggressive (will bite deep enough to break skin) there's no reason FIV+ cats and FIV- cats can't live together - it's transmitted by deep bite wounds.
For futher information, visit:
Feline Retrovirus Management Key Points American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP)
2005 Retroviral Testing Guidelines American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP)
In response to inquiries regarding Fel-O-Vax FIV AAFP Information Brief
FIV: Catching a Bad Case of Rumors Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
last updated: 8/13/2008
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