We got our cat, Zack, from the Southend Cat’s Protection Leaguewhen he was 6 years old. We also adopted his sister, Chloe at the same time. Unknown to us and to the CPL, they both had FIV or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, the Cat form of AIDS. According to fabcats.org, FIV affects the cells of the immune system (white blood cells) killing or damaging them. This causes a gradual decline in the cat’s immune function. This puts the cat at serious risk to infection. A simple respiratory infection or bite or scratch can quickly become septic and can bring the infected cat down quickly. They are also prone to more kidney problems and this is the leading cause of FIV cats having to be put down.
If you have an FIV cat, there are a few things that I have found that have helped keep Zack happy and healthy.
First of all, be aware of any signs of respiratory infections. The most common signs are runny eyes, runny nose, sneezing, then lethargy. In my cat, I can always tell when he has a runny eye that he’s getting a respiratory infection. These are not to be messed with and can bring an FIV cat down quickly, so get your cat to the vet quickly so they can get started on antibiotics. These are usually administered as a tablet given two or three times a day for five to seven days.
Next, watch for any scratches or bites from fighting. It’s best to keep FIV cats as indoor cats, as this disease is spread through saliva when biting and blood from scratches and fighting, but if you cannot, then monitor your cat closely for any wounds. If you notice any scratches or bites, clean them thoroughly and if possible, take your cat to the vet for antibiotics. These wounds can quickly go septic and can also turn into abscesses which may require surgery which is dangerous for an FIV cat since their immune systems are already compromised.
Also, be sure to regularly treat your cat for worms and fleas and have his teeth cleaned regularly. Keeping your cat pest free and his mouth clean helps his immune system to not have to fight off any additional diseases. Taking your cat to the vet for a check-up bi-annually is a good idea and then you can obtain prescription strength worm and flea treatments.
Finally, make sure to feed your cat the highest quality food that you can afford. If your cat is a senior, feed them senior food. It is a good idea to feed your cat a food that supports the immune system and especially the kidneys. Always offer fresh, clean water with food and monitor eating and drinking habits as you may be able to discover any problems early, which is key to treating FIV cats.
There is no cure for FIV, but the common treatment is to give the cat the best quality of life possible. Chloe already had an infection in her mouth that led to all her teeth having to be removed and ultimately led to her being put down. We were determined not to lose Zack as well so I studied as much I could about this disease and how to prolong his life. He is now 15 years old and still going strong. With just a few precautions, your FIV cat can live a long, happy life.