How does a cat get FIV?

Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is an important viral-infected disease of cats that occurs worldwide.
The virus was first discovered and widely comprehended during the investigation of a disease outbreak in a previously healthy colony of rescue cats in the USA, whose signs had been similar to people suffering from the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection.

Although HIV and FIV are extremely alike, the viruses are separate species, which means that FIV only infects cats and HIV only infects humans. Furthermore, there is no risk of infection for people in contact with FIV-positive cats.

Once infected, a cat will remain in the infected condition for the rest of her life, and after a period, perhaps several years, the virus may damage the cat’s immune response and result in signs of disease.

So what is FIV and how is it spread?

Feline immunodeficiency virus belongs to the retrovirus family of viruses in a group known as lentiviruses. Lentiviruses typically cause disease slowly and thus infected cats may show no symptoms and remain healthy for many years.

Once a cat has been infected with FIV, the infection will always be permanent (the virus can not be eliminated), and the virus will be in the saliva of an infected cat. The most common way of transmission for the virus from one cat to another is via a cat bite, where saliva cottoning the virus is inoculated under the skin of another cat.

The virus does not survive long in the environment and is promptly killed by common disinfectants. In other rare cases, the virus may also be transmitted by non-aggressive contact between cats (mutual grooming for instance), from a pregnant feline to her kittens; and it can also be spread through blood transfusions.

It is not known by any studies or reports if blood sucking parasites such as fleas are able to spread infection so it is still strictly recommended to maintain a regular flea control programme.

Who are prone to FIV the most?

Although any feline is susceptible, free-roaming, outdoor intact male cats who are the most frequently vulnerable to the disease. Cats who live indoors are the least possible to be infected.

How about the transmission between cats?

Fortunately, if an FIV cat bites you, there’s nothing worried about, but this dangerous disease may cause cat death. The risk of transmission between friendly domestic cats that stay indoors is not high. But it can be transmitted through biting wounds.

Therefore, it is highly recommended that FIV-positive cats should be kept indoors where they cannot get others infected. Cats without FIV should stay protected if you keep them inside as well.

Although the risk of transmission through social/friendly contact is low, it is not absolutely impossible. Ideally, infected cats should be kept in separate areas from uninfected cats to remove the risk of transmission.

If this is not possible, keep in mind that transmission is less likely between cats in a stable household (there are no fights between the cats, or an introduction of a new cat, etc.).


Cats with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) may not show symptoms until years after the initial infection triggered. Despite the fact that the virus is slow-acting, a cat’s immune system will severely be worsened once the disease takes hold.

This result in the consequences that the cat is susceptible to various secondary infections. Infected cats who receive supportive medical treatment and are kept in an indoor, stress-free environment will be likely to live relatively comfortable lives for months to years before the disease reaches its chronic stages.

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