Louis was rescued by the Damery family. He had been spotted hanging around their place, a stray cat limping for a few weeks. They were able to catch him and bring him in to us for assessment. Despite his feral nature, he responded to a calm approach. We estimated him to be about 1.5 to 2 years old.
At this age, male cats are sexually active and part of that behavior involves fighting other cats for territory. This puts them in the high risk category for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) transmission. Both of these viruses need direct contact to spread, FIV by bite wounds and FeLV by saliva. Kittens can also be born with FIV if their mother was infected during gestation. As part of Louis’ work up, he was viral tested and unfortunately came up positive for FIV. Due to his circumstances, the we decided to adopt Louis here at the clinic. We neutered him and are currently treating his injury.
FIV is a virus that is in the same family as HIV, but it is specific to the cat species. When they are first infected, cats may show some signs of illness such as fever, lethargy and not eating. Then they improve and a period of latency (dormancy) follows. During this time, they do not have any symptoms, though some changes may show up in blood work. The latency period can last years, and many cats can have a normal quality of life during this time. At some point, their immune system starts to falter and they become prone to infections. This is called Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Even at this point they can be managed by medications. Eventually symptoms progress to a terminal phase wherein more serious complications occur. Survival time then may only be months.
FIV is common in urban environments where it can spread easily in feral colonies of cats. A vaccine does exist, but it is not widely used since FIV infected cats and FIV vaccinated cats both come up positive when tested, and the concern is that a cat may be falsely diagnosed with the disease. Here are some guidelines to help avoid this deadly virus.
Keep your cat indoors.
The high risk population is sexually active cats. If your cat must go outside, neuter them.
Have any new cat viral tested.
If your outdoor cat fights with other cats, consider viral testing on a regular basis.
A positive FIV test is not an automatic death sentence. Cats can live for years with the virus in its latent form. It is even possible to have normal cats and FIV cats living together in the same home. As most multi-cat owners know, their cats rarely fight and draw blood.
Louis has a comfortable home now. He’s adjusting well to his indoor life, and is still recovering from his injury. I’m hoping his story will spread awareness about this serious disease and encourage owners to keep their kitty companions as safe as possible.