AIDS. A word we've all heard before. A word most of us know stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. Also known as HIV, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. But most of you don't know that someone you love could have a form of AIDS right now. That's right, I'm talking about your lovable, furry, purry, and sweet kitty. Your best friend, your secret-keeper, your Persian, American Short-Haired, Norwegian Forest, or mixed cat.
I'm here to give you a close look at this possibly deadly virus and what you should do if your friend has FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus).
What Is Feline Immunodeficiency Virus?
Scientists that deal with viruses and the diseases associated with them (or virologists for you fancy pants out there) have classified FIV as a slow virus, also known as a lentivirus virus. It belongs to the same family as FeLV (feline leukemia virus), but they differ in many different ways including genetically and how they cause diseases in your cat.
How Is FIV Spread?
The number one mode of transmission is through bite wounds. If the contact between cats is casual and non-aggressive, FIV most likely won't be transmitted. On rare occasions the virus is transmitted from the infected mother cat to her kittens, usually during passage through the birth canal or when the kittens consume their mother's infected milk. Sexual contact between cats is surprisingly not a major means of which the virus is spread.
Can I Be Infected With FIV If My Cat Bites Me?
Yes, I know you are all dying (hehe, get it?) to know if you can acquire FIV or HIV from your infected buddy. So here's the long awaited answer: Dunnn dun dun dun dun dunnnn . . . No. You can't. PHEW, right?
Actually, FIV is a very species-specific virus and many studies have failed to show any evidence that FIV can infect or cause disease in us humans. So don't be worried if your cat bites you. You won't contract any disease, unless your cat has rabies. And then you'd need a series of painful shots or you would slowly begin to loose your marbles. But anyways, you get the idea.
How Common Is FIV?
Infected cats are found worldwide but in the United States, approximately 1.5 to 3 percent of healthy cats are infected with FIV.
Because bite wounds are the main cause of transmission, aggressive stray male cats are the most frequently infected, while cats living indoors are less likely to be infected.
How Will FIV Affect My Fuzz Ball?
If your cat is infected, signs of the virus may not show for many years. However, FIV will eventually lead to a state of immune deficiency that will weaken the cat's ability to fight off other infections. Common bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi that are usually found in an every day environment (these do not usually affect healthy uninfected felines) can cause dangerous illness in your FIV cat. These secondary infections are the cause of many of the diseases associated with FIV. This is why I STRONGLY encourage you to have your feline pets tested for FIV. If your cat has any disease, it would be very helpful to the veterinarian to know if your cat is, in fact, infected. It's a simple test that will check the antibodies in the cat's blood.
How Long Can I Except My Infected Cat To Live?
It's impossible to give an estimate right down to the year, but many live months, even years. Some cats are carriers, and FIV never effects them. They could live a long healthy life. The live expectancy of healthy uninfected cats is anywhere from 15-22 years old! Your infected cat could live just as long.
I really hope you've learned something about FIV. Please, please, PLEASE, have your cat(s) tested for this virus! It could save their life! Also, if your cat is infected, IMMEDIATELY have them spayed or neutered (though I pray that you spay and neuter ALL of your pets no matter what) and do not let them roam around outside. It wouldn't be fair to the healthy stray/outdoor cats that live in your neighborhood if they were to get infected!
This has been xENEMYx, running to hug my FIV kitty, Topsy Turvy. Who is very healthy, I might add ;).
Author's Note: Sources: Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine, www.vet.cornell.edu and
my personal veterinarian.