Your vet offers to vaccinate your cat for FIV. You think “well, sure, why not? Vaccines are great!” NO! Your cat should NEVER be vaccinated for FIV!
First, let me make myself clear – I love vaccines. Vaccines are wonderful things that prevent a number of very serious illnesses, and they are essential in eradicating deadly diseases. However, there are several excellent reasons why your cat should never receive the FIV vaccine (and the AAFP – American Association of Feline Practitioners – agrees):
1. Current tests for FIV cannot distinguish between a cat vaccinated for FIV and one infected with FIV. Once vaccinated, your cat will test positive for FIV for the rest of their lives.
2. We’re not sure exactly how effective the FIV vaccine is anyway. The manufacturer claims it’s abut 80% effective, but other studies have found it’s only about 50% effective at preventing FIV infection.
3. Indoor cats that have been spayed or neutered have almost no chance of contracting FIV anyway. FIV is most commonly spread through very deep bite wounds (like the kind seen between unneutered stray male cats).
OK, that’s all well and good, but so what? My vet and I would know that my cat was vaccinated for FIV. What’s the worst that could happen?
Imagine if your cat slipped out the door and got lost. She’s picked up and taken to the local county shelter, where she tests positive for FIV. Ideally, she is reunited with you, but realistically, most owners are never found. If she’s lucky, a rescue group like Calvin’s Paws will be able to take her in and put her up for adoption. Since we wouldn’t know her history, we would have to list her as FIV positive, and it would likely take a long time to get her adopted. If she’s unlucky, she would be euthanized at the shelter upon testing positive. This is the unfortunate fate that awaits most FIV+ cats that find themselves at a shelter.
The possible consequences of vaccinating your cat against FIV far outweighs the actual risk of your cat contracting and becoming ill with FIV. If a test that can differentiate between an FIV-infected cat and an FIV-vaccinated cat ever becomes available, then maybe the FIV vaccination recommendation would change. Until then, JUST SAY NO!
Click here to read the 2013 AAFP Vaccination Guidelines: http://www.catvets.com/guidelines/practice-guidelines/feline-vaccination-guidelines
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.