Saturday, August 23, 2008

FIV Facts - It's Not A Death Sentence

I am an animal lover. I am a big mush for cats ... any type of cat really deserves to live, in my opinion, unless suffering horribly in a manner that can no longer be reversed or healed. In saying this, I am admitting to having not one, but two FIV+ barn cats at my parents' farm. Would inside homes be preferable? Absolutely ... but when the popular alternative is death, I don't think I'm doing much of a disservice to them. I mean, Norman, for example, was living in a beyond dangerous area where he needed to be relocated from, but he was feral as well. An FIV+ cat is hard enough to place, let alone a feral one!

My love, my beast, the other half of the former odd couple of Buddy & Norman before Buddy passed away - I cannot express how much I love my man, Norman. Norman was one very hard to trap boy that I had agreed to take before we even got him, I believe. I had a new kitty, Wilson, who had come to me after his owner passed and the house he lived outside of forever was being sold. There were 5 other cats he had lived with, but Wilson had always been the outsider of the group so we assumed there would be no problem of him settling in solo ... however, that was not the case. He refused to eat for weeks! Though I believe Wilson was named for the volleyball in Castaway I always thought of the neighbor with the constantly covered up face on Home Improvement and just like that neighbor, I'd grown up with a neighbor who said "Hi-dee-ho, neighbor" when he was out in his yard and saw us - Norm Sanger. So, that's how Norman got his name when we took him in hoping that some company would perk up Wilson and his appetite.

Norman was best friends with my Buddy and has been quite lost it seems with Buddy now gone. It breaks my heart. I have not been able to touch him since Buddy passed away though he's always close by and never that hard to find around dinner time.

Champ came into my work when a contact said that two cats had been abandoned at their place and they just could not handle taking on anymore: they were going to take one and wanted us to take the other one. He was friendly enough, they said, but after they left him with us, he turned out to be positive for FIV when we tested him. Our suite here was full and with the rumors and assumptions about FIV+ cats being so unfair, I doubted a place that didn't want this cat when they thought he was healthy certainly wouldn't want him if he was FIV+. I said I'd take him. Here's a photo of Champ while he was laying around, caged, getting used to his new home:

Could Champ be an inside kitty? Perhaps. But he's very happy outside, runs as soon as he sees us getting to close and though he's outside, he's alive and well watched over. He spends most of his time in our pole barn about 20 feet away from the house.

I keep them as happy and healthy as possible. They are seen at least twice a day during meal time. My boys are probably overly fed, are neutered and vaccinated. All the cats not only have the outdoors to play around with, but toys too. I've seen them enjoying naps in the sun or curled up in the leaves. I keep them healthy with extra nutrients is they seem a little down, I apply Revolution to them monthly when they let me. They have 4 barns to pick from if weather comes up and every winter they're offered not only the usual comforts of old sofas and comforters in their barns, but our side porch is set up for them with heat lamps for when it's super cold, extra blankets and a heated cat bed to sleep in.

Aside from just having two FIV+ barn cats, they live with other cats too. FIV is not as contagious as rumored and feared. Wilson is NOT positive for FIV, Irish Momma tested negative as well and the cat who just emerged from the woods and never left is one very healthy cat too!

I stole these below well known facts from my friend's website: Paws For Life Coalition. She's got various other great tid bits on there too, so check it out!

1. The Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is a lentivirus, meaning that it progresses very slowly, gradually affecting the cat's immune system over a period of years.

2. FIV is a cat-only disease and is not transmissible to dogs, children or other humans in any way, so there is not a threat to families even if an FIV cat scratches or bites you. In fact, the only thing about FIV that you can catch is a bad case of deadly rumors.

3. FIV cats most often live long, healthy lives and never suffer any symptoms at all.

4. FIV is not easily passed between cats. It cannot be spread casually - like in litter boxes, water and food bowls or when snuggling, grooming and playing. It is rarely spread from a mother to her kittens, although some kittens can have a false positive reading due to the mother's antibodies passed on to them. It is best to have the kitten retested every 60 days up to 6 months of age.

5. The virus can be spread through blood transfusions or serious penetrating bite wounds. (Bite wounds of this kind are extremely rare, except in free-roaming, un-neutered tomcats.) So unless your cats at home routinely tear each other to pieces, it should not be a problem.

6. A neutered FIV cat in a home is extremely unlikely to infect other cats, if properly introduced. Proper introduction should always be made when adding any new cat into your household. It is not necessary to isolate an FIV cat in a multiple cat household unless the FIV cat is likely to fight with the other residents.

7. Many vets are not up to date about FIV since the virus was only discovered 15 years ago. A lot of vets did not want to take a chance and the rule of thumb was to totally separate the cat, find a sanctuary or have them euthanized. If we went back 15 years ago, before anybody tested for FIV, all of these cats would be in regular homes living normal lives. But researchers now discovered something they could put a name to, even if the cats never got sick.

8. FIV-positive cats should be kept as healthy as possible (as with any cat). Keep them indoors, free from stress, feed them a high-quality diet and treat any secondary problems as soon as they arise.

9. It is our strong recommendation not to consider vaccinating your cat with the current FIV vaccine. All cats just vaccinated with the FIV vaccine will test positive for FIV. If your cat was ever lost and then found and taken to a shelter, they may be euthanized as a result of this false positive test. There are no current commercial tests available to distinguish between a healthy vaccinated cat and one that truly has FIV. The vaccine only covers 2 (A & D) out of 5 subtype strains of FIV (A, B, C, D & E). The A subtype is seen mainly on the west coast and D subtype is in Asia. Most cats in the US test positive for subtype B and is most prevalent on the east coast.

For more info on FIV & vaccine information, visit: &

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