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Cat immunodeficiency virus

Kitten lying on a table being examined by a vet
Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is the cat equivalent of HIV. Approximately 1-5% of cats are infected. Once a cat is infected with FIV they remain so persistently for the rest of their life.

What is feline immunodeficiency virus?

Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is the cat equivalent of HIV. It’s important to note that people can't be infected with FIV, while approximately 1-5% of cats carry the virus.

Once a cat is infected with FIV they remain so persistently for the rest of their life.

How is FIV spread in the cat community?

FIV is spread through fighting and biting, so it is seen more frequently in younger, non-sterilised cats with outdoor access, especially when they are establishing a territory.

It can also be spread through blood transfusions if the blood is not pre-screened.

What happens if cats are infected with feline immunodeficiency virus?

FIV progresses very slowly over several years, destroying the cat’s white blood cells – this means they lose their ability to fight disease. This reduction of the immune system results in susceptibility to secondary infection, while they will take longer to get over everyday illnesses and diseases.

What are the symptoms of FIV?

A cat suffering from FIV will show several different symptoms. As an owner, you should pay particular attention to any:

  • Weight loss
  • Fevers
  • Infections
  • Diarrhoea
  • Lethargy

Affected cats may also develop neurological disease and some cancers.

Are there tests to understand whether my cat has FIV?

Your vet will be able to determine whether your car or kitten has been infected with FIV through a blood test.

If my cat has FIV, should I consider euthanasia?

Having FIV is no reason for euthanasia, but sensible health precautions need to be followed and cats should not be allowed to roam free as they risk infecting other cats.

Can I get my cat or kitten vaccinated against FIV?

There is now a vaccine for feline immunodeficiency virus, which has been in place since 2002.

When it comes to getting your kitten vaccinated, you’ll need to understand the different categories of vaccines.

Specifically, there are two categories, either “core” or “recommended”. All core vaccines must be given to all kittens and cats by vets, regardless of their lifestyle.

The core vaccines include:

  • Cat flu – both feline herpesvirus (fHV) and feline calicivirus (FCV)
  • Feline panleukopenia virus (FPV)
  • Feline leukaemia virus (FeLV)

The FIV vaccine doesn’t fall into the core category meaning that not all cats or kittens are required to have it. The vaccines that fall into the recommended category will be provided by vets depending on the lifestyle of the cat or kitten.

If you’re concerned about and want to understand the right vaccinations to be given to your new kitten, speak to your vet as they will provide suggestions based on several different factors, including whether your cat will be going outdoors and if they’ll be in contact with other cats.

How many injections will my cat or kitten have?

The FIV vaccination is a course of three injections, 2 – 4 weeks apart.

When will my cat be protected against FIV?

Your kitten won’t be protected until after the third injection, meaning you should keep them indoors until then.

Does the FIV vaccine require a booster?

Your kitten will then need a regular booster one year after the second injection was given, and annually after that. Your vet will advise you on the vaccination schedule, as well as reminding you when the boosters are due.

Remember, if you’re unsure about anything related to the vaccinations your new kitten or cat must have, always speak to your vet.

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