We hear it all the time about FIV: “FIV…that’s feline AIDS, right?” No.
First of all, a positive test for FIV doesn’t even mean a cat DEFINITELY has FIV, let alone AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). Remember that the current tests for FIV test for antibodies to FIV, which means that if a cat has previously been vaccinated for FIV, it will test positive on the current tests. There is no way to tell the difference between an infected cat and a vaccinated cat.
Aside from the fact that the cat might not even have the virus, even if the cat DOES have FIV, there are different stages of the infection
– Stage 1: After initial infection with FIV, a cat may appear mildly ill (fever, lethargy, swollen lymph nodes, etc.). The cat’s body fights the virus, and they typically progress to stage 2.
– Stage 2: In this phase of infection, cats are usually completely healthy, showing no signs of the virus and living a normal life. This stage can and does last for many years.
– Stage 3: This is the terminal stage of the virus where the virus has depleted the immune system enough that the immune system can no longer properly fight off other infections. This is the stage that could appropriately be compared to AIDS. However, this stage usually takes many years to develop, and it may not even develop at all!
Some vets still make this error and refer to FIV as “Feline AIDS.” If your vet says “Feline AIDS,” get a new vet or recommend they educate themselves on the subject.
FIV is not the same thing as Feline AIDS. Feline AIDS refers to the final, terminal stages of disease that can be caused by FIV, but not all cats with FIV develop AIDS. If cats do progress to the terminal stage, it usually happens over many many years, which is why FIV typically does not shorten the lifespan of a cat.
No cat should EVER be euthanized or lose their home simply because they test positive for FIV. Cats with FIV will live long, healthy lives and typically con’t require extra care.
Calvin’s Paws is a 501(c)(3) rescue. We work through a network of foster homes throughout the Triangle area to save homeless cats and dogs. We are a dedicated group of volunteers with common goals: rescuing animals (both positives and non-infected felines), finding the best fitting homes for each animal, and educating the public on animal health and responsible pet ownership.