FIV or Feline AIDS in Cats

10 min read



4. What are the stages of FIV?


"There are basically three stages.  The primary stage lasts for 2-4 weeks or so and usually resolves spontaneously, but can sometimes be very severe and lead to death.  This is followed by a variable, but often very long latent stage where the cats remain outwardly healthy.  The terminal stage occurs as long as 7-10 years later, but sometimes sooner, and is manifested by diseases associated with immunodeficiency or cancer," Dr. Pendersen says.


5. How is FIV like HIV?


Dr. Pendersen further explains, "FIV tends to be a milder disease and terminal disease often occurs later in life, if at all.  HIV is a much more serious disease with higher mortality if untreated with antiviral drugs."


6. Are certain breeds more susceptible to getting FIV?


"No, any breed of cat can get FIV,” Corrigan says.


7. Can FIV be passed from mother cat to kitten?


"Experimentally, using high levels of exposure, the mothers can transmit FIV to the kittens. It is controversial whether or not this occurs in nature. However, kittens born to FIV positive mothers in the clinically asymptomatic stage may test positive for FIV for the first four to even six months of life without becoming positive for FIV after that time. This likely reflects antibodies from the mother circulating in the kitten’s blood stream early in life," Meadows says.


8. What are the best treatment options for cats with FIV?


Simply put, there is no specific treatments. "There are no safe and effective anti-viral drugs for FIV so this is not an option," Pendersen explains,” Fortunately, it is usually not necessary to treat them as long as they are healthy. When they do become ill, we try to diagnose whatever complication that occurs and treat it if possible. This can prolong life for a long time in many FIV infected cats in the terminal stages of the disease.  There are several biologics that are being touted on the web as having immunostimulatory properties and to be effective in prolonging the lives of FIV infected cats. We believe these to be expensive and ineffective.  Interestingly, a recent study demonstrated that FIV infected cats forced to live in crowded and unsanitary multi-cat environments had a much higher mortality and died earlier than FIV infected cats that lived as normal household pets.  This suggests that the stresses of such environments had a negative effect on FIV infection.  We are also often surprised how well some FIV infected feral toms, showing definite signs of FIV disease, respond to proper care and diet.  We believe that many FIV infected toms become too ill too effectively hunt for themselves in nature and actually attach themselves to homes where people will provide them food and shelter. Many of these cats eventually return to normal health with proper diet and go on to be castrated and become regular pets, living normally for many more years."


Corrigan suggests that, "Raw meat and dairy products should be avoided. Regular dental care is also very important, as they are prone to developing inflammation and infection of the teeth and gums. There are some medications that may help stimulate the cat’s normal immune response. FIV positive cats should be kept indoors and separate from FIV-negative cats in order to avoid spreading the virus."


9. Does FIV affect male or female cats more often?


According to Meadows, male cats are affected by FIV more often. "This is primarily associated with the roaming behavior (searching for breeding partners) and defense of territories both of which are more intense in intact male cats than in other cats,” he says.




1. Bendinelli, Mauro, et al. "Feline immunodeficiency virus: an interesting model for AIDS studies and an important cat pathogen." Clinical Microbiology Reviews8.1 (1995): 87-112.

2. Yamamoto, J. K., et al. "Epidemiologic and clinical aspects of feline immunodeficiency virus infection in cats from the continental United States and Canada and possible mode of transmission." Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 194.2 (1989): 213-220.

3. Pedersen, N. C., et al. "Feline immunodeficiency virus infection." Veterinary immunology and immunopathology 21.1 (1989): 111-129

4. Ravi, Madhu, et al. "Naturally acquired feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) infection in cats from western Canada: Prevalence, disease associations, and survival analysis." The Canadian Veterinary Journal 51.3 (2010): 271.

5. American Association of Feline Practitioners (2002), "Feline Immunodeficiency Virus"Cornell Feline Health Center (Cornell University, College of Veterinary Medicine), retrieved 2008-11-12

6. Hosie, MJ et al. (2009), "Feline immunodeficiency. ABCD guidelines on prevention and management", Journal of Feline Medicine & Surgery 11 (7): 575–84, doi:10.1016/j.jfms.2009.05.006PMID 19481037.

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