A week ago, we told you about the plight of Frank, the pet who was abandoned by his owner in the frigid cold of winter. His predicament was all the more unfortunate when he was found to be FIV positive.
That said, a diagnosis of FIV is hardly the end of the world for any cat. There is a lot of prejudice and misinformation out there that unfairly limits the options available to FIV cats. For Frank’s sake and for others like him, we’d like to take a moment to sort out the facts.
What is FIV?
FIV, or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, compromises a cat’s immune system and makes him/her susceptible to illness and infection. It’s colloquially referred to as “cat HIV” given that the two viruses are related, but this loaded choice of words causes unnecessary alarm.
Facts and Myths About FIV
- FIV cannot be transmitted to humans, just as HIV cannot be transmitted to a cat.
- FIV positive cats can live perfectly normal lives for many, long years.
- Studies have shown that the risk of FIV transmission between cats is very low. In fact, FIV positive and negative cats can happily live out their lives together without ever seeing the virus spread. One of the most famous examples of this are the Internet celebrities Cole & Marmalade. Many Cat Busters rescues have demonstrated this time and time again and we have known vets who themselves own both FIV positive and negative cats.
- FIV cannot be transmitted through casual contact, such as shared litterboxes, food bowls, or bedding, as the virus cannot survive long outside of the cat’s body and is easily destroyed by drying, light, heat and basic detergents. It is not spread through grooming, snuggling, mating or even mild scuffles between cats. Kittens rarely acquire the condition from an FIV positive mother.
- The primary and most likely method of transmission is through a deep bite wound that breaks skin, accompanied by bleeding gums. We’re talking serious battle scars here… your typical slap-fight between cohabiting kitties won’t do it.
Adopt a FIV Cat
Sadly, the stigma of FIV keeps many wonderful cats from being adopted. Some shelters and owners resort to euthanizing cats after a FIV diagnosis — this is an extreme and utterly unnecessary measure.
Frank is a sweetheart and a good boy. He loves hugs, tummy rubs and chin scritches. He dutifully uses his litterbox to do his business. He’s not a fan of the eye ointment he has to take for a few more days, but doesn’t make a fuss. Even going to the vet isn’t a big deal. After just one day, Frank quickly figured out that he needs to stand back a minute while his foster mom sweeps around the litterbox; he knows that cuddles can wait until after that little chore is done. He plays with his growing collection of toys and goes nuts for catnip. Even though the owner who discarded him complained that he meowed too much at night, he has been quiet at bedtime.
Sounds like a perfectly normal cat, doesn’t he? That’s because he is. Frank deserves a forever home, just like all our rescues.
The current foster home is a temporary arrangement: unfortunately, one of the resident cats is immensely aggravated by Frank’s arrival so the foster mom has to keep them in separate parts of the house where they can’t see or smell each other. This is not an ideal arrangement, but everyone is making do for now.