Friday, June 30, 2017

FIV+ is NOT a death sentence

Some cats have spots and some have stripes, but that doesn't mean they're any less adoptable. Just like cats' markings, an FIV+ cat is still as loveable as any other cat. Read below to learn more about one of our volunteer's experience and knowledge with FIV+ cats.

Having been involved in the cat rescue world for years, I’ve encountered my fair share of FIV+ cats. Most of the ones I’ve met were found living outside and brought into the shelter by good samaritans or feral trappers. At first glance, these cats usually look defeated and scared but, unlike the average housecat that’s used to the luxuries of indoor living, FIV+ cats seem, in a way, thankful for the respite from years of defending their food and territory from other cats. Some have battle scars and old wounds and the males frequently have adorably large heads and jowls. Though they sometimes look rough around the edges, many of them turn out to be quite friendly and affectionate. It’s as if they’ve waited their whole lives for a human to love them. Many of them probably have.
Jr. Mint - One of our adoptable FIV+ cats

FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) is a slow virus that attacks a cat’s immune system over a period of years. It’s similar to HIV in humans in that FIV itself is not fatal, but it makes the cat more susceptible to secondary infections and other diseases like cancer and blood disease. Historically, FIV was largely misunderstood by veterinarians and shelters, and as a result, FIV+ cats were routinely euthanized.
Thankfully, with increased education and awareness, the stigma has been decreasing and now, more than ever, FIV+ cats are being given their fair chance at adoption through shelters and rescues like Silicon Valley Pet Project. However, they are still often overlooked by adopters who don’t understand FIV or simply want a young, healthy cat. It’s understandable that adopters are hesitant to adopt animals with known medical issues, but FIV is not as daunting as you may think. While there is no cure for the virus itself, FIV+ cats can live comfortable, happy lives with normal lifespans provided they receive supportive medical care and are kept in stress-free, indoor-only environments. It can be many months or years before the disease reaches its chronic stages. Some cats live their entire lives without having any complications related to FIV.
Jr. Mint - One of our adoptable FIV+ cats

Transmission of FIV only occurs when the virus is directly injected through the skin and into the bloodstream of the other cat, and it requires a high dose to cause infection. The virus is present in both blood and saliva, though it’s quite fragile and cannot survive for long outside the body, so transmission via casual contact is highly unlikely. FIV is not contagious and it cannot be transmitted indirectly. It’s considered safe for infected and uninfected cats to groom each other, cuddle, share bowls, toys and litter boxes. The likelihood of transmitting FIV between friendly, indoor house cats is extremely low, with some studies indicating that the risk is less than 1-2%.
The most common way FIV is transmitted between cats is through deep bite wounds. FIV is more common in intact, outdoor (“tom”) cats because they often fight violently with each other over territory and food. The virus can be transmitted from a FIV+ mother to her offspring during birth or while nursing, though it’s rare. FIV is not transmittable to humans or non-feline pets.

Jr. Mint - One of our adoptable FIV+ cats
To ensure that your FIV+ cat lives the longest, healthiest life possible, here are a few tips:
  1. If your cat isn’t already, please get him/her spayed or neutered!
  2. Keep your cat indoors for life. FIV+ cats have compromised immune systems and are more susceptible to illness, so keeping them indoors will reduce the likelihood of exposure to infectious agents.
  3. Feed your cat a healthy, well-balanced diet that provides all the essential vitamins and nutrients he/she needs. Raw meat can harbor bacteria and parasites, so it is not recommended for FIV+ cats. Also, make sure to provide your cat access to fresh water at all times. Cats prefer to drink water that hasn’t been sitting out for long, so it’s best to change it at every meal.
  4. Take your cat to the vet regularly for routine checkups and to keep them current on all vaccinations.
  5. Watch for changes in your cat’s health and behavior. Cats tend to hide pain and sickness very well, so even minor changes can signal that something is wrong. If your cat is showing obvious signs of illness (coughing, sneezing, discharge, vomiting, changes in stool, weight loss, visibly in pain) or just doesn’t seem like himself (lethargic, sleeping more, less friendly/energetic/playful than normal), contact your veterinarian immediately.
Jr. Mint - One of our adoptable FIV+ cats

Despite the fact that a FIV is incurable, it's not a death sentence. Many FIV+ cats live wonderful lives with normal lifespans. We believe that FIV cats deserve the same love as all other cats and hope you agree!
To see all of our adoptable kitties—including FIV+ Jr. Mint—who are still looking for their forever homes, click here.