Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)
Facts About FIV Positive Cats
FIV is a slow virus that affects a cat’s immune system over a period of years.
FIV is a cat-only disease. It cannot be spread to humans or other non-felines.
FIV itself does not shorten a cat’s life-span. But, because FIV affects a cat’s immune system, it is more difficult for an FIV+ cat to fight off disease. An FIV+ cat requires a diligent owner—someone who will take her to the vet twice a year for check ups and, immediately, at the first sign of illness.
FIV is spread through serious, penetrating bite wounds. This type of bite wound is seen most often in feral, intact tomcats.
The virus can spread through blood transfusions.
Sometimes, a FIV+ mother may infect her kittens while they’re in the womb or through her milk after they are born.
FIV cannot spread casually between cats, such as in water or food bowls, or in litter boxes.
Cuddling, playing and other forms of casual physical contact do not spread the virus.
The FIV virus was discovered in 1986. Before then, FIV positive cats and non-FIV cats often lived together peacefully.
FIV+ cats are no different from other cats, often living long and healthy lives, never showing any symptoms.
Facts About Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) Positive Cats
FeLV is a retrovirus that affects a cat’s ability to fight off infection.
FeLV is a cat-only disease. It cannot be spread to humans or other non-felines.
Because FeLV affects a cat’s immune system, it is difficult for an FeLV+ cat to fight off disease. An FeLV+ cat requires a diligent owner—someone who will take her to the vet twice a year for check ups and, immediately, at the first sign of illness.
FeLV is not airborne; it is transmitted through close continuous contact among cats.
Prolonged contact or a serious, penetrating bite is usually necessary for transmission.
The virus can be spread through mutual grooming, nose-to-nose contact, and shared food and water bowls.
FeLV can also be found in lesser amounts in tears, urine, and feces thus litter boxes could be a source of infection in multi-cat households. For this reason, it is recommended to not have FeLV+ and FeLV- cats co-mingle.
A mother can infect her kittens while they are in the womb or through nursing the kittens.
The Feline Leukemia Virus can remain latent in a cat’s system for years. A low stress environment, a healthy diet, immune boosting vitamins and a life indoors are essential for a FeLV+ cat.