The Feline Disease with a Scary Name: Everything You Need to Know About Adopting an FIV+ Kitty

Update:  We are delighted to report that Miss Nadja has been adopted!


Nadja tested positive for FIV+.

One of the cutest, sweetest, healthiest kittens we have ever met,  she probably carries the antibodies after nursing from her FIV+ mother.  Captured as a tiny baby with her feral mom and her brothers and sister, Nadja is the only one of her her litter still awaiting a home.  Nadja has been with us for over 2 weeks; most of our kittens are adopted within 2 days (including her litter mates).  Why the delay for the divine Miss Nadja?  With a positive FIV result, potential adoptees seem to be more than a little scared off by her condition.

At the Annex, we have re-homed many kitties with FIV+, who have lived long, happy, healthy lives with their human families.  Yes, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), is basically the cat version of Human inmunideficiency Virus (HIV).  This is the scariest (and most misunderstood) part for most potential adoptees.  You (the human) cannot catch FIV.  Unlike human HIV, FIV does NOT require massive drug therapy to maintain the cat’s health. Most cats with FIV live asymptomatically for long periods before any signs of illness become apparent.   It does compromise their immune systems, and you should be prepared to care for infections quickly rather than waiting for the cat to get better on their own.  However, with consistent vet care and a good diet, most cats with FIV do just fine.  In fact, although we often have kitties that develop upper respiratory infections while at the Annex, Nadja is remains one of the healthiest kitties in our group!

A few more facts about FIV:

  1. Again, FIV is NOT contagious to humans, dogs, rabbits, etc.  It is a feline illness ONLY.  In fact, its not even particularly contagious between cats.  Its actually pretty hard for another cat to catch it from an infected cat.  Like human HIV, it can only be transferred through blood-to-blood contact (ex.  deep bite wounds) or from a mother’s milk.
  2. FIV is more of a management issue than an active disease for most of the cat’s lifetime.  Keeping your FIV+ kiltty indoors will help to protect her from feline illnesses.   We also recommend that FIV+ kittles are kept as an only cat in the household.  This is really more for their protection – this will keep them from picking up any feline illnesses from other kitties in the household.
  3. Some other care guidelines from the ASPCA website:
  • Keep your cat indoors. This will protect him from contact with disease-causing agents to which he may be susceptible. By bringing your cat indoors, you’re also protecting the uninfected cats in your community.
  • Watch for changes—even seemingly minor—in your cat’s health and behavior. Immediately report any health concerns to your vet.
  • Bring your cat to your vet at least twice per year for a wellness checkup, blood count and urine analysis.
  • Feed your cat a nutritionally balanced food—no raw food diets, please, as bacteria and parasites in uncooked meat and eggs can be dangerous to immunocompromised pets.
  • Be sure your cat is spayed or neutered.

Although eventually, most FIV+ cats will become symptomatic and show signs of illness, most FIV+ cats  live long and happy lives provided they receive proper and prompt veterinary care.