Mythbusting FIV myths with FIV Facts!

This article is updated in honor of Snuffy cat, an FIV cat abandoned that I took in as my first Fospice. You an see his picture below.

What is it?

The feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) infection is a complex virus that causes immunosuppression (abnormal immune system) in domestic felines.

Can I catch it?

Feline immunodeficiency virus cannot infect humans, only feline to feline. It is a highly species-specific virus that infects only felines. A number of studies have failed to show any evidence that FIV can infect or cause disease in people.

Are my other pets at risk?

FIV is transmitted through deep, penetrating bites (deep puncture wound that occurs usually more than once). Casual contact (eating from the same food bowls, grooming, sleeping in the same bed) does not appear to be a route of spreading FIV. Felines in households with stable social order where housemates do not fight (and we mean a violent FIGHT resulting in deep bite wounds, not posturing or tussling) are at little risk for acquiring FIV. On rare occasions, infection is transmitted from a newly infected mother feline to her kittens, usually during passage through the birth canal or when the newborn kittens ingest milk. Sexual contact is not a major means of spreading FIV.


Symptoms seen with FIV vary from feline to feline, so treatment must be established for the individual feline and physical condition. There is a test available, however the initial test is often FALSE positive; work with your Veterinarian to do a more thorough blood screen if you suspect FIV. In addition, the vaccine can cause a false positive (see below).


One of the cons to vaccinating against FIV is that your pet will test positive after being vaccinated — just another very important reason to keep your felines indoors. So, the decision to vaccinate (Fel-O-Vax) should be discussed with your veterinarian, and consideration of the risks vs. effectiveness considered.

Prognosis and Treatment
Once your feline is infected with FIV, there is no cure for the infection. It is important to understand that a positive test for FIV is not a mandatory death sentence for your feline. The cat will be treated symptomatically. Without proper treatment, secondary infections that can occur as a consequence of FIV can progress to life-threatening conditions. Aggressive treatment of secondary infections, indoor only, low stress, and a high-protein diet will help an FIV-positive feline lead a quality, long life.

Source: American Veterinary Medical Association; Cornell University