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Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

Bengal Kitten playing with toys
Bengal Bliss: Kitten Immersed in Playful Paradise with Toys

No doubt, you want your precious Bengal cat to live a long, healthy, and happy life. One of the best ways to make sure that happens is to educate yourself about all the health risks possible. There are, unfortunately, many risks, among them some deadly viruses. One such virus is the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, also known as FIV.

What is FIV in Cats?

FIV, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus , affects domestic cats worldwide. It weakens the immune system of the kitty, resulting in an inability to fight infections and diseases as well as a cat without FIV.

How Do Cats Get FIV?

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is transmitted from cat to cat in the following ways:

1.      Bite Wounds during a fight between an infected cat and a non-infected cat.

2.      Mating

3.      Any blood to blood encounter

4.      During pregnancy, birth or nursing

5.      From saliva

6.      Sharing food or water bowls or playing together or grooming one another although these actions are low risk

Bengal cat having a bath
A Bengals Graceful Bath Time Moments

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus FIV Symptoms

It's important to recognize the symptoms of FIV in cats, which can include:

  • Swollen lymph nodes

  • Weight loss

  • Poor appetite

  • Diarrhea

  • Fever

  • Chronic upper respiratory infections

  • Dental problems

  • Persistent infections or slow healing wounds

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus Stages

FIV progresses through three distinct stages:

  1. Acute stage: This stage occurs 2-4 weeks after a cat is infected. Symptoms usually include fever, enlarged lymph nodes, and lethargy. 

  2. Latent stage: This stage lasts from months to years and is usually characterized by no symptoms.

  3. Progressive stage: This is the final stage. There are more and more symptoms. The immune system is severely weakened. Secondary infections are more likely.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus Test

If you want to make sure that your kitty doesn’t have FIV, a vet can perform a test right in the office. However, if the test is positive, make sure your vet sends out a confirmatory test to the outside lab. There are sometimes false positives. It is very important to remember that kittens can have false positive test results that will go away with age. Maternal antibodies are responsible for that.

FIV Positive Cats and Treatment Options

Two Bengal cats laying down and waking up from a cat nap
Happy Bengals having a lazy day

Unfortunately, there is no way presently to cure FIV. Management focuses on providing supportive care and maintaining your cat’s quality of life. This can include:

  • Stay up on vaccinations

  • Treatment of infections with antibiotics as needed

  • Have your kitty examined by your vet regularly

  • Managing dental issues which are almost always a factor in FIV

  • Nutrition and hydration support

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus Vaccines

There used to be a vaccine available for FIV, but its efficacy varied and it was not recommended. It is no longer available.

Can a Human Get FIV?

FIV is species-specific, meaning it only affects domestic cats. There has never been shown to be a risk of transmission to humans.

Bengal Cat sleeping
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Preventing FIV in Your Cat

The great thing about feline immunodeficiency virus in cats is that it is totally preventable. You can rest assured your cat will never have FIV if you simply keep them indoors and test all cats before you bring them into the household. 

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus Lifespan

Contrary to popular belief, FIV is not a death sentence for cats. If you have an FIV positive cat and keep him healthy and well cared for, he can live a relatively normal, healthy life. Factors that affect an FIV-positive cat's lifespan include:

  • Early detection of the virus: If FIV is diagnosed early, you have the best opportunity to manage your cat's condition and monitor their health more effectively.

  • Preventing secondary infections: A weakened immune system puts your FIV positive cat more at risk for secondary infections. Regular vet visits, a healthy diet, and a clean, stress free environment are key to keeping your FIV positive cat happy and healthy. 

  • Regular vaccinations: Consult with your veterinarian about vaccinations for FIV-positive cats. Preventing common diseases can make a significant difference in their overall health and longevity.

To repeat, FIV is completely preventable. In addition, if you have an FIV positive cat, he can live a long, normal life. And that’s all good news for our wonderful cats!

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