Why This Vet Thinks FIV-Positive Cats Make Great Adoptees

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In the past two years, I’ve taken on two foster cats. Each lived with me for a time. Both were healthy. Yet neither was considered adoptable by most cat lovers’ standards. Not after they’d come up positive for FIV, the feline immunodeficiency disease often referred to ominously as “feline AIDS.”

Nonetheless, I did eventually manage to place them in loving, forever homes. But it wasn’t easy!

The trouble with FIV isn’t just that it’s conflated with AIDS and, as such, scares the bejeezus out of potential adopters who mistakenly fear feline-to-human transmission. It’s also that a) the disease really does come attached to special health considerations and b) it’s a disease that’s transmissible to housemates via skin-piercing bites.

So how’d I persuade them? Read on.

1. FIV is not transmissible to humans! No way. No how. Never. I don’t care what you’ve heard tell. You should banish the thought once and for all.

2. FIV is about as transmissible as HIV. Which is to say not very. Animals in the same household cannot transmit the disease from one to another except by mating (a behavior sterilized animals will not effectively engage in) or by inflicting bite wounds (not typical even among cohabitants with bad attitudes).

So you know, the same can’t be said for FeLV (feline leukemia virus), which can be transmitted by more casual contact (e.g., grooming, sharing food, etc.).

3. Cats with FIV can live very long, perfectly comfortable lives. Here are some details:

FIV-positive cats can live a long time without suffering any related illness. That’s why many veterinarians, including the feline medicine experts at the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), suggest owners never opt for euthanasia based on a positive test alone.

These kitties do, however, require some special considerations. The AAFP’s FIV experts offer the following recommendations:

  • FIV-positive cats should see a vet twice a year for a physical exam and some lab work (a complete blood count, chemistry panel and urinalysis should be performed at least annually).
  • Whenever they’re feeling poorly, FIV-positive cats should receive immediate care.
  • FIV-positive cats should be spayed or neutered, live indoors only and steer clear of environmental exposure to infectious diseases (for example, raw food diets should be avoided).

That’s not so hard now, is it?

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