Health & Medical

A Closer Look at the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

Up to 3% of healthy cats tend to get infected with FIV in the US. The disease is common in felines all over the world, and tends to shorten their life spans as well as the quality of life.

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Got a pet cat you’re worried about falling sick? Here’s all you need to know about the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).  

Causes and Risk Factors of FIV

FIV is transmitted through close contact among cats. This typically happens through infected saliva, especially when a cat sustains bite wounds or scratches. While the chances of the virus spreading through sexual transmission are rare, this too may happen and studies have shown that the FIV virus may be present in semen. Additionally, it may also be passed on from a pregnant or nursing cat to her kittens, although this, too, is a rare occurrence.

Since the most common form of transmission is through saliva, outdoor male cats are especially prone to contracting the disease as they’re likely to roam about and get into fights with other cats. However, outdoor female cats are also at high risk of getting infected. On the other hand, cats that are kept indoors for the most part are a very low risk of getting FIV.

Symptoms of FIV

The tricky part of detecting and diagnosing FIV is that the symptoms can go undetected for years. However, while your cat may initially seem to be suffering from minor and seemingly unrelated health conditions, these can progress over the years and worsen their struggle with FIV. Thus, if you notice any of the following symptoms in your cat, it’s a sign to have them examined by a vet:

  • Recurrent upper respiratory illnesses
  • Recurrent gastrointestinal signs
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Ear or skin disease
  • Gum or oral tissue inflammation
  • Nose or eyelid inflammation
  • Bacterial or fungal infections
  • Long-term kidney disease
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever, weakness, and increased fatigue
  • Unusual sleeping pattern
  • Weight loss
  • Behavioral changes

Treatment for FIV Infected Cats

As mentioned above, symptoms of FIV may not surface for years. Thus, if any of the aforementioned conditions arises, they should be taken seriously and a vet should examine your cat. In more advanced stages of FIV, symptoms usually revolve around a weakened immune system and secondary infections.

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The best treatment is to practice precaution. Give your cat a balanced diet and immune-boosting foods to help them stay healthy. If there are specific health issues, have these examined and treated at your earliest. Also avoid cat to cat interactions outside of your home.

CatDX provides pet testing services using saliva samples, including feline immunodeficiency virus test (FIV) and feline leukemia test (FeLV).

Order an FIV test for your cat today!

About the author


I’m Nancy and no, I didn’t always look like I do in that picture on the right. My foray into health and fitness began as a brace-faced, 16 year-old who was too afraid to wear a two-piece at the beach because I felt my body paled in comparison to my much more toned friends.

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