Cats in the Cradle
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Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
& Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)

  • There are many misconceptions, websites with wrong information, and bad rumors about these two cat specific diseases. 
  • Many special needs cats go unadopted because of a lack of knowledge, lack of understanding, and believed fallacies about the diseases.
  • It is time to bring some clarity and hard facts to bear regarding FIV and FeLV.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

Excerpt from Cat Support Network :


“FIV stands for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus.  It's a lentivirus, meaning that it progresses very slowly, gradually affecting a cat's immune system.  It is passed through blood transfusions and through serious, penetrating bite wounds - mainly by stray, intact tomcats.  The most well-known lentivirus in humans is HIV.  But the two are not at all the same, and you can't get FIV from a cat.  In fact, the only thing about FIV that you can catch is a bad case of the rumors!

FIV Facts (by Kristi Littrell)

1.  The Feline Immunodeficiency  Virus is a slow virus that affects a cat's immune system over a period of years. 

2.  FIV is a cat-only disease and cannot be spread to humans or other non-felines. 

3.  FIV cats most often live long, healthy and relatively normal lives with no symptoms at all. 

4.  FIV is not easily passed between cats.  It cannot be spread casually - like in litter boxes, water and food bowls, or when snuggling and playing.  It is rarely spread from a mother to her kittens. 

5.  The virus can be spread through blood transfusions, badly infected gums, or serious, penetrating bite wounds.  (Bite wounds of this kind are extremely rare, except in free-roaming, un-neutered tomcats.) 

6.  A neutered cat, in a home, is extremely unlikely to infect other cats, if properly introduced. 

7.  Many vets are not educated about FIV since the virus was only discovered 15 years ago. 

8.  FIV positive cats should be kept as healthy as possible.  Keep them indoors and free from stress, feed them a high-quality diet, keep and treat any secondary problems as soon as they arise.  

Despite what many people think, cats with this condition can live perfectly long, happy, healthy lives!” 

Additional Resources:

This is Bubba (FIV Positive)
Bubba FIV +


Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)

Excerpt from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

“Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is one of the most common infectious diseases in cats, affecting between 2 and 3% of all cats in the United States. Infection rates are significantly higher (up to 30%) in cats that are ill or otherwise at high risk (see below). Fortunately, the prevalence of FeLV in cats has decreased significantly in the past 25 years since the development of an effective vaccine and accurate testing procedures.

Cats persistently infected with FeLV serve as sources of infection for other cats. The virus is shed in saliva, nasal secretions, urine, feces, and milk of infected cats. Cat-to-cat transfer of the virus may occur from a bite wound, during mutual grooming, and (rarely) through the shared use of litter boxes and feeding dishes. Transmission can also take place from an infected mother cat to her kittens, either before they are born or while they are nursing. FeLV does not survive long outside a cat's body – probably less than a few hours under normal household conditions.

Cats at greatest risk of FeLV infection are those that may be exposed to infected cats, either via prolonged close contact or through bite wounds. Such cats include cats living with infected cats or with cats of unknown infection status, cats allowed outdoors unsupervised where they may be bitten by an infected cat, and kittens born to infected mothers.

Kittens are much more susceptible to FeLV infection than are adult cats, and therefore are at the greatest risk of infection if exposed. However, even healthy adult cats can become infected if sufficiently exposed…

Although a diagnosis of FeLV can be emotionally devastating, it is important to realize that cats with FeLV can live normal lives for prolonged periods of time. The median survival time for cats after FeLV is diagnosed is 2.5 years. Once a cat has been diagnosed with FeLV, careful monitoring of weight, appetite, activity level, elimination habits, appearance of the mouth and eyes, and behavior is an important part of managing this disease. Any signs of abnormality in any of these areas should prompt immediate consultation with a veterinarian.”


Additional Resources:


“Time spent with cats is never wasted.” – Sigmund Freud.