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As It Turns Out, FIV Positive and Negative Cats Can Happily Live Together

As It Turns Out, FIV Positive and Negative Cats Can Happily Live Together

FIV positive cats can live long, healthy and relatively normal lives with no symptoms at all, yet there is so much misinformation circling about this disease that some veterinarians still recommend euthanizing cats who test positive.

A new study in The Veterinary Journal written by Annette L. Litster of Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences presents Lister’s conclusions about FIV positive and negative cats living together based on research of the cohabitation of cats living in separate rescues.

In the one rescue, Litster discovered that FIV was not passed between infected and non-infected cats during normal day to day interaction in a shared living environment. In the second rescue, Lister’s studies also showed that FIV was not transmitted to kittens when their mothers were already infected prior to birth.

The Truth About FIV

FIV, or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, is a cat-only disease which cannot be transferred to humans or other animals. It is a slow virus that affects the cat’s immune system over a period of years. The infected cat can fight off the infection and become totally immune, can become a carrier that never gets sick, or worst, end up with a compromised immune system.

FIV Transmisson

FIV is not easily passed between cats as it cannot be spread casually through litter boxes, food and water bowls, or snuggling and playing. This disease is transferred when an infected cat bites another cat and breaks the other cat’s skin. This means that a neutered cat in a home is highly unlikely to infect any other cats as long as they are properly introduced or are not particularly aggressive in nature. FIV is much more difficultly transmitted than people are led to believe, and there is often confusion between FIV and FeLV.

FIV Positive & Negative Cats Living Harmoniously

Litster’s studies document FIV positive and negative cats living together harmoniously without the disease being transmitted among the group members, despite sharing all the same bowls, litter boxes, bedding and engaging in mutual grooming and even episodes of mild aggression.

These studies coupled with the further understanding of exactly how FIV is spread demonstrates why it is not valid to assume that FIV positive cats can’t live together with their fellow uninfected feline friends. The vast majority of cats, once neutered, have no desire to bite the other cats they live with. They may play fight, but this rarely leads to a serious bite which is what would be required to inject the virus.

Read stories from real cat owners sharing their experiences of cohabiting households here.

FIV Should Not Mean a Death Sentence

FIV is shrouded in rumor and prejudice, and as a result too many cats are deemed unadoptable and end up being euthanized. These groundbreaking studies by Litster provide evidence that FIV positive kitties are not the great danger to their brethren as we may have once thought them to be.

Hopefully this new research can help veterinarians and shelter staff to advise cat owners and adopters to make better informed decisions and in turn help put an end to FIV positive cats being needlessly killed due to a completely controllable and non threatening illness.

Check out FOHA for more information about FIV positive cats and FIV negative cats living together in peace.

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Photo Credit: Lucas Thompson

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268 comments

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2:20PM PDT on Jun 17, 2014

Good News!

2:53PM PDT on Jun 16, 2014

That is a serious disease. It has been in my prides, but is now gone. If your cat has this...please remember to clean their eyes out 2-3 times a day at least. The pressure of the infections on the eyes will cause blindness.

6:21AM PDT on Jun 16, 2014

Thank you:noted,liked and shared

9:36PM PDT on Jun 15, 2014

"Yes - it is for *FIV* (which, btw - is *NOT* "feline AIDS". Please do not call it that - calling it that will have under-informed people thinking they can get AIDS from the cat),:...........sorry, Diana G., but FiV is the feline form/version of HiV, just species specific to cats, same as HiV is species specific (as far as we know at the present time) to humans. No, FiV can't be transmitted to people, nor to dogs, and neither can HiV be transmitted from a human to their cat. It's being POSITIVE for the antibodies against a virus, which again, does not mean a full blown disease, same as HiV doesn't mean the person (human) has active AIDS. Magic Johnson is proof of that.

4:00PM PDT on Jun 15, 2014

I don't know which is sadder - that it has taken this long to have a "study" to prove what some of us have known for more than 20 years; or that it has taken that long to get someone to *WRITE* about it in a forum where people will see it.

Yes - it is for *FIV* (which, btw - is *NOT* "feline AIDS". Please do not call it that - calling it that will have under-informed people thinking they can get AIDS from the cat), and not FeLV - however there are some indications that even FeLV is not as easily transmitted as formerly thought. 20 years ago I brought in two FeLV positive cats. My other cats had all been vaccinated. I did isolate them in a separate room - and would probably do the same now - but I would not be quite so concerned about keeping things "aseptic". The FeLV virus is apparently also quite fragile outside of the body. It can be transmitted by grooming and sharing food dishes and litter boxes - any condition where it does not have time to 'dry out' or die from exposure. Feline Distemper can live outside of the body of a cat for a long time - and actually is more deadly. FeLV cats can often live many years as long as they are kept from being exposed to infections that a healthy cat would be able to fight off.

1:42PM PDT on Jun 13, 2014

I think it's very important to note here, as you will clearly see in the study link provided, that this applies to FIV only, not FeLV!

10:01AM PDT on Jun 10, 2014

Thanks, Abigail, this is good to know. However, the link provided isn't to the study itself, which is behind a paywall. But it could have linked to the abstract, which can be found here:
Transmission of FIV Among Cohabitating Cats in Two Rescue Shelters

I think that Barbara D. has it right about there being too many healthy animals in shelters not finding homes. Obviously, there is only so much space, and overcrowding would be inhumane. If the choice is between saving healthy cats or diseased cats that could possibly further spread the disease, the choice seems pretty clear. Because even if the risk can be minimized, it isn't eliminated. There is no guarantee that an infected cat will socialize well or not have aggression issues.

It isn't the shelters that are at fault for following best management practices; it's all the irresponsible owners not having their pets spayed. If an owner wants to breed cats and be responsible for all the litters, that would be one thing, but too often it seems that isn't the case.

7:36PM PDT on Jun 9, 2014

Cats can live long loving lives with a variety of problems. They can be FIV pos., blind, have three legs etc. We just need more patience and education.

8:15PM PDT on Jun 8, 2014

Vets should never recommend to euthanize cats who are infected with FIV. This article did a great job explaining how FIV cats and healthy cats can live together.

1:57PM PDT on Jun 8, 2014

I love the photo of the two cats snuggling together.

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