Adopting a Cat with FIV

At MEOW Foundation, one of our core beliefs is that every cat deserves a chance at a loving home. This includes cats with health problems, including FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus). 

Some potential adopters may have concerns or reservations about adopting a cat that is FIV-positive. Today, we will debunk some common FIV myths and shed light on how rewarding it can be to adopt a cat with FIV. 

What is FIV?

FIV is a viral infection that affects a cat’s immune system, similar to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). FIV can only be transferred between cats and cannot be transmitted to humans or other non-feline animals. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure or vaccine for FIV. 

The condition is fairly uncommon, impacting an estimated 2.5-5% of healthy cats in North America. However, cats that have other illnesses or are at high risk of infection have a significantly higher rate of FIV (more than 15%). 

With all that being said, there is good news. Most cats with FIV are asymptomatic for the duration of their lives, and only 1-5% of cats show signs or symptoms of the condition. 

Common signs or symptoms of the condition include: 

  • Weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Inflammation of the membrane around the eyes
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

FIV can most often be detected through a blood test at a vet clinic. If you suspect that your cat may have been exposed to FIV or is showing symptoms, it is important to get them tested as soon as possible. 

2 cats preparing to fight in the street.

How Does FIV Spread? 

FIV is primarily spread through deep bite or scratch wounds and is most commonly seen in unneutered male cats fighting over territory. 

As a cat owner, it is important to be aware of the risk of FIV, especially if you let your cats roam outdoors. Cats should only be allowed outdoors under close supervision (on a harness or in a catio), in part to eliminate the risk of contracting FIV during a streetfight. Ensuring that your cat is neutered is another way to help reduce the risk of FIV. 

Dispelling FIV Myths

FIV is a commonly misunderstood condition. The reality of FIV is that cats with the condition can still live long, fulfilling lives with proper care and monitoring. 

Myth: FIV-positive is the same as feline AIDS. 

Being FIV-positive is not the same as having feline AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). Feline AIDS is the late stage of FIV where significant damage to a cat’s immune system has occurred. Many FIV-positive cats go their entire lifespan without showing any signs of feline AIDS. 

Myth: FIV is a death sentence. 

One of the most significant misconceptions is that FIV-positive cats have a drastically shortened lifespan. While their immune system may be compromised, many FIV-positive cats can live well into their senior years with proper care and a loving environment. 

Myth: FIV can be transmitted easily. 

FIV is primarily spread through deep bite wounds and is not easily transmitted through casual contact or sharing food bowls or litter boxes. In fact, FIV-positive cats can safely coexist with FIV-negative cats as long as they are introduced properly, there is a socially stable hierarchy, and no fighting or biting.

Caring for an FIV-Positive Cat

With consistent care and monitoring, FIV-positive cats can live long and fulfilling lives. As the owner of a cat with FIV, you can help ensure your cat’s health by providing: 

  • Regular veterinary care
  • A balanced diet
  • Indoor living

Regular Veterinary Care

FIV can impact your cat’s ability to fight off illness, and because of this, it is important to carefully monitor their overall health. 

It’s crucial to establish a relationship with a veterinarian experienced in treating FIV-positive cats. Regular check-ups, vaccinations, and monitoring of their overall health will ensure that they receive the best care possible.

A Balanced Diet

Providing a nutritionally balanced diet, tailored to their individual needs, can help strengthen the immune system and supports their overall well-being.

Indoor Living

While all cats should be kept indoors for their safety, it is particularly important for FIV-positive cats. This helps minimize their exposure to potential infections and reduces the risk of them spreading the virus to other cats.

Indoor cat sleeping on a green chair.

Why You Should Adopt an FIV-Positive Cat

By adopting an FIV-positive cat, you directly contribute to giving them a second chance at a happy life. You become an advocate for misunderstood cats, raising awareness about FIV and helping to break the stigma surrounding the condition. FIV-positive cats are just as affectionate, playful, and loving as any other cat. By adopting an FIV-positive cat, you open your heart to a companion who will appreciate your care and attention. 

To learn more about our currently adoptable cats, visit our Cat-A-Logue. Not ready to adopt? Please consider donating to MEOW Foundation to help us provide medical care to stray and abandoned cats, including those who are FIV-positive.

Puck: FIV-positive MEOW alumn and part-time paper shredder.
Meet Puck: FIV-positive MEOW alumn and part-time paper shredder.
Marten: FIV-positive MEOW alumn and hat enthusiast
Meet Marten: FIV-positive MEOW alumn and hat enthusiast