A cat wakes from a nap

When looking for the right cat to bring home, finding one with a clean bill of health can be a top priority. Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia Infection (FELV) are cat-only diseases that can thwart a possible connection and adoption. However, the more prospective cat owners know about FIV and FELV, adoptions of these deserving cats can become more common. 

The Basics of FIV

Similar to HIV/AIDS, FIV weakens the immune system. Detected by a simple blood test, FIV may or may not cause the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Weight loss/poor appetite
  • Anemia
  • Diarrhea
  • Gum and mouth inflammation/dental disease
  • Skin redness, hair loss, disheveled coat
  • Sneezing
  • Wounds that don’t heal
  • Eye inflammation 
  • Discharge from the eyes or nose
  • Behavioral changes
  • Urination outside the box, straining, or increased frequency

While there is no treatment to cure FIV, cats should be tested and diagnosed if you do notice any of these symptoms at home. If positive, we can help you make them as comfortable as possible while living with this disease. With a little extra TLC, cats with FIV and FELV can continue living normal lives.

Kept Apart

Cats with FIV should be separated from other cats. It cannot be transmitted to other species (including humans), so FIV-positive cats may live with dogs, birds, pocket pets, etc. 

FIV is transmitted via saliva between cats that fight and bite their competition. Mothers can pass it onto their kittens. It cannot be transmitted when holding, petting, or cuddling a FIV-positive cat, and the virus cannot live on surfaces or clothing.

The Difference Between FIV and FELV

Feline Leukemia infection is caused by the feline leukemia virus. Transmitted from one cat to another via saliva, FELV can be the outcome after a fight involving deep bite wounds. Unlike FIV, FELV can be passed during allogrooming and shared food/water bowls. Blood tests are necessary to detect the disease.

The symptoms of FIV and FELV differ. FELV can cause fever, infections, blood disorders, and cancer. There is a connection between the Leukemia virus and Leukemia or lymphoma, a cancer of the white blood cells). Not all FELV infections cause cancer, and not all patients with these cancers have FELV. 

Worthy of Love

It’s important to screen cats before they join a new household. Younger cats are the most susceptible, and should be vaccinated against both FIv and FELV. While There’s no risk to people, both diseases require special consideration for prevention and control. Routine wellness exams should be conducted every 6 months or so to help manage symptoms and increase quality of life. 

No Deterrents Here!

So, if you’re looking at a perfectly adorable cat that may be positive for either disease, please know that FIV and FELV do not preclude a cat from receiving or giving endless unconditional love.

As always, please contact us with any questions. Our team at Blue Valley Animal Hospital is always here for your cat!