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Feline Immunodeficiency Virus(FIV) – Cat FIV Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Does your cat suffer from ongoing health issues even after being given proper medications? Or is it showing poor health signs from the past several months? If the answer to either of them is yes, then it can be an alarming condition for your cat, and there is an urgent need to take her for a vet examination. The simple reason for this great concern is Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. Cat FIV can damage cats’ immune systems and make them vulnerable to secondary infections. It can ultimately lead to the death of the cat and reduce her lifespan to a great extent.

Here are the details about FIV in cats and how early treatment can make situations favorable for your cat.

What is FIV in Cats?

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, also known as cat FIV, is a retrovirus infection first detected in the United States. Cats suffering from FIV don’t show any illness signs for the initial years, and the virus remains in the immune system of cats for an extended period. This virus is a slow killer and begins its work by destroying immune system cells. The problem arises when it starts targeting and killing white blood cells. Such actions result in the weakening of the potential to fight illnesses. Due to these reasons, FIV is considered cat HIV because it shows identical consequences on felines, like humans, when they have HIV.

After the destruction of the immune system, FIV positive cats become highly prone to catching secondary infections. It is essential to understand that the feline leukaemia virus and FIV are not similar illnesses; both lead to distinct effects in cats. Another thing about FIV in cats is that the virus remains present in the cat’s saliva; therefore, the possibility of virus transmission to other cats is enormous.

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What are the Symptoms of FIV in Cats?

Since the cat FIV virus infects the immune system slowly, it becomes tough to detect its presence in the starting years of infection. You will not notice any severe symptoms for several years. Your cat can experience some illness during this period, but it is easily curable through medicines. However, once the damage to the cat’s system intensifies, the signs of ailment become clear and severe. Therefore, it is suggested that you should take your cat to a vet clinic after noticing these FIV symptoms:

  • Recurring fever
  • Loss of appetite with consistent diarrhoea
  • Chronic infection in different body parts like the upper respiratory tract, intestine, eyes, and bladder
  • The deteriorating condition of the coat with other skin problems
  • Changes in behavior due to neurological disorders
  • Stomatitis, i.e., inflammation of the mouth

Weight loss also occurs in cats with FIV as their bodies cannot extract the nutrition from the diet. In the later stages of this infection, there is a possibility that the illness will convert into some sort of blood disease or even cancer. Many felines also suffer from diseases like neoplasia and lymphoma, and infectious agents can further create problems for them.

Causes of FIV in Cats

The primary cause of FIV in cats is the transmission of the virus from an infected cat to a healthy cat through an extensive bite. Due to this reason, outdoor cats are at risk of getting infected with this virus as they get involved in territorial disputes leading to such injuries. Apart from this cause, a mother cat can also pass the FIV virus to her kittens. However, the possibility of transmission from the mother is bleak. Infection rates are higher in sick cats than in healthy cats. Further, un-neutered male cats having access to outdoors remain at the highest risk of catching FIV infection.

Even though FIV cats contagious, it is found that cats generally do not spread the FIV virus by sharing their food or water bowls with other cats. Other feline actions, such as sneezing and mutual grooming, also do not lead to the transmission of the virus to another cat. Sexual contacts are also not responsible for the spread of FIV among cats. Majorly bites and bite wounds leads to the spread.

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Treatments Available for FIV in Cats

The absence of antiviral remedies makes the FIV virus dangerous for cats. No specific medication has been developed to treat FIV cats. During the treatment for FIV in cats , the focus remains on keeping the cat asymptomatic for a prolonged period, and no severe symptoms arise quickly. However, one study has shown that cats live for an average period of 5 years after getting diagnosed with the FIV virus. The medical course and recommendations can vary vastly for different cats.

If a cat starts showing the symptoms of FIV, vets treat the secondary illnesses resulting from the virus. Here are a few common treatments used to provide relief to cats suffering from FIV:

  • Drugs to boost the strength of the immune system.
  • Drugs to control inflammation.
  • Best food like grain-free cat food that are easy to digest.
  • Medicines to cope with secondary ailments.
  • Fluid replacement therapy.
  • Making use of daily parasite control.

Antiviral medicines like AZT and antiviral therapies can increase the time frames when your cat has no noticeable symptoms. Steroids and immunosuppressive drugs must be avoided during the FIV cats treatment. Other antiviral medications for stomatitis can relieve the cat-facing inflammation in the mouth. Starting the treatment in the earlier stages of FIV can extend the cat’s life expectancy to some extent and help provide a decent quality of life.

What are the Cat FIV Stages?

There are four stages of this disease, during which the infection grows and starts causing problems to them. It is possible to identify a particular stage by looking at the symptoms of a cat.

#1 Acute Phase

The acute phase begins after a few days of the entry of the virus into the body. Cats usually experience fever, weakness, or enlarged lymph nodes during this stage. It continues for about three months.

#2 Latent Infection

It is a no-symptom period, and cats don’t suffer from chronic illnesses. This stage can last for years. However, most cats don’t progress beyond the latent infection phase.

#3 Feline Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome/Feline AIDS

The third stage marks the beginning of secondary infections in feline. Cat AIDS involves those symptoms related to weak immunity and continuous weight loss. At this stage of infection, cats with FIV become immunocompromised and vulnerable to various chronic secondary infections.

#4 Terminal Phase

The last stage is the terminal phase, in which the prognosis period is approx. three months. Cats usually experience end stage FIV symptoms like severe infections, neurologic disorders, and cancer during this phase.

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How Do You Prevent FIV in Cats?

An effective prevention technique to control the transmission of FIV in cats is to keep the FIV-infected cat at an isolated place other cats cannot reach. Although sharing food bowls doesn’t lead to the spread of the virus, it is better to arrange a separate bowl for the cat with FIV. The reason is that virus remains present in the cat’s saliva and gets transferred to the bowl while eating. Therefore, it is necessary to clean pet comfort bowls and litter trays using a disinfectant. You can also make use of the following prevention methods to protect your cat from the FIV virus and limit the progression of cat fiv stages:

  • Always try to keep your cat indoors to prevent contact with outdoor infected cats.
  • Round a leash while taking your cat for a walk.
  • If you are adopting a cat, then make sure to get them cat FIV test.
  • If any cat visits your house and stays with your cat for a prolonged period, then verify that such cat has tested negative for the virus.

You can also provide your cat with FIV vaccination as it is found to give some protection against FIV. However, you must consult a vet before taking this step. The vaccine doesn’t provide complete protection against the disease because of the multiple strains of FIV.

Frequently Asked Questions

For how many years can a cat survive after contracting the virus?

Cats with FIV live an everyday life for the initial years of infection. However, a study has revealed that, on average, FIV in cats life expectancy is five years after getting infected with the virus. Secondary illnesses lead to deteriorating health conditions.

Does every cat die from FIV?

FIV itself doesn’t lead to the death of a cat, but the increased susceptibility to chronic diseases becomes the primary reason for the death of cats with FIV. If the virus progresses to feline AIDS, then the chances of death increase to a great extent.

Do humans get infected with FIV?

Even though FIV looks similar to HIV in human beings, a human cannot catch FIV from an infected cat. This virus doesn’t spread to different species and affects only cats.

Can I get insurance coverage for a cat with FIV?

You can inform pet insurance companies about your cat testing positive for FIV. They provide payouts for the treatment, but it becomes crucial to discuss terms and conditions before getting insurance.


Even after getting infected with FIV, a cat can live a happy life and enjoy the company of other cats. Early identification of the symptoms of FIV in cats can extend the cat’s life and help reduce the severity of secondary illnesses to some extent. The owner’s duty during this period is to provide the cat with a balanced diet, proper medications, and regular visits to the vet. Although FIV is not curable, the pet owner must take every necessary step to prevent the spread of FIV to other cats and furnish a good quality of life to the infected cat.