FIV is not Feline AIDS

We hear it all the time about FIV: “FIV…that’s feline AIDS, right?” No.

Why not?

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.

The Conclusion

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.

Holly Hobby is one of Calvin's Paws FIV+ rescues. She is a very loving cat who loves laps and always wants to be near her human.
Holly Hobby is one of Calvin’s Paws FIV+ rescues. She is a very loving cat who loves laps and always wants to be near her human.

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.


FIV is not Feline AIDS

16 thoughts on “FIV is not Feline AIDS

  1. Lawrence Kingera Jr says:

    It can be so frustrating trying to get some people to accept this science. They refuse to believe that FIV is NOT THE SAME as HIV, no matter how much empirical and/or anecdotal evidence you place on front of them. They also refuse to acknowledge the fact that the virus can not be spread by way of casual contact, including minor squabbles or by sharing food, water or bedding. They further refuse to accept that a “positive” reading from the ELISA test or the Western Blot test is not a diagnosis of the virus, but only the presence of the antibodies. This is especially disappointing when it concerns newborn or nursing kittens of an FIV positive mother. Again there is irrefutable evidence that less than 3% will actually contract the virus, while the rest will test negative between 24-32 weeks old because they stop nursing at about 16wks. There is a colony of about 18 cats in Ft Bragg that have coexisted for about 10yrs. There is mix of positive and negative cats and there has been not one single cross infection within the colony. Another fact is that the percentage of FIV cats go on to live perfectly normal lives.

    There is a wonderful organization called that is a wealth of information for those who want the most up to date data on the subject.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Scorpio says:

    If kittens come into contact with a cat that unknowingly has FIV they do not survive long, approximately 6 months. This happened to me 30 years ago.


    1. Brittany says:

      Are you sure it was FIV? FIV is definitely not spread through casual contact (like grooming, sharing food and water bowls, etc.), but Feline Leukemia can be spread through casual contact, and the two viruses are often confused. In fact, FIV wasn’t discovered until the ’80s, whereas FeLV was discovered in the ’60s, so knowledge about FIV was extremely limited 30 years ago. Kittens are way more susceptible to FeLV than adult cats are, and kittens that contract Feline Leukemia often to not survive beyond 2 years. We have another post on the differences between FIV and FeLV that you can check out:


      1. Scorpio says:

        Hi. The vet described it as feline aids to me, he said cats develop an immunity from their mothers and from small doses from contact with cats but my kittens had contact with a carrier, whatever they had destroyed red blood cells, they became anaemic, lathargic and by 6 months all 3 sadly had to be pts. Was in 1983 xx


    2. Terri says:

      Cats can live a normal life or many years after they come in contact with another FIV cat. We had a FIV cat around others and he died of old age and none of the other cats ever got it.


      1. Scorpio says:

        Hi. Having read the info Brittany suggested, yes it was most probably feline leukemia, the vet described it as feline aids I guess to put it simply to me. Took me back a few years this. RIP Max, Dodgem & Squiggle x


  3. kim fogleman says:

    We rescued a 6 month old without knowing it had fiv and an uri. We have 2 other older cats and they get along fine except for a little scuffle now and then. I wouldn’t trade him for the world. He has a forever home with me!!


  4. CJ says:

    People need education on HIV it sounds like… Because until the 3rd stage FIV does sound very similar to HIV in humans. Just because there’s a stigma against it doesn’t mean they’re not similar. People can have HIV and not know it. They can appear healthy and live for years after diagnosis. HIV is NOT spread by simple close contact but by bodily fluids. (All sounds similar to FIV) Both are a immune depressing virus. So on its early stages yes FIV is not like AIDS but more like HIV (as the name suggests) Just like FIV, HIV progresses eventually to a very immune suppressed stage which we call AIDS. But there should not be such a stigma against AIDS. So yes “feline AIDS” is a misnomer but “feline HIV” is somewhat accurate. Just my two cents


    1. Brittany says:

      You’re exactly right – FIV is very similar to HIV, and we see the same confusion of calling all cases of HIV infection “AIDS” in humans. I think it’s because they are both relatively newly discovered viruses, and for a long time there was a LOT of misinformation out there.


  5. Pat Norris says:

    My FIV cat lived for almost 15 years after he became FIV. And he was healthy for all but the last few months. Please give FIV cats a chance to live a long and happy life. I cannot imagine how I would have survived without my Mr. Jesse! And he did not infect either of my other two cats in the ten+ years he lived with them.


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