Preventing FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) and Managing FIV+ Cats

Curious Cat

Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is a contagious disease that can potentially be spread from one cat to another. It is sometimes also called feline AIDS. Fortunately, there are preventive measures that can be taken to keep your cat from becoming infected with FIV.

Because one of the primary effects of the feline immunodeficiency virus is immunosuppression, infected cats are susceptible to a number of different secondary health problems. As a result, the signs seen with FIV will vary from cat to cat. Treatment must be geared toward the individual cat and the cat's physical condition.

Preventing FIV Infection in Cats

You can help prevent infection with FIV by avoiding the things that put your cat at risk of infection.

  • Have your cat spayed or neutered (to prevent spread of FIV).
  • Keep your cat indoors.
  • Test any new cats for FIV before you bring them into your household and allow them to interact with the cats already there.

Is There a Vaccine for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus in Cats?

There is a vaccination for feline immunodeficiency virus. However, the vaccine is somewhat controversial and most veterinarians do not recommend using it except under very limited circumstances.

A big problem with the vaccine for FIV is that cats that have received the vaccine will test positive for FIV. This may complicate diagnosing your cat if he gets sick.

The vaccine for FIV might be worth considering if an FIV positive cat is living with other cats that are not positive. If the cats fight, the risk of the infection spreading is higher. In that case, the vaccine may be beneficial for the FIV negative cats. If your cat goes outside and fights with other cats, you may want to consider vaccination.

ID and Microchips Extra Important for FIV Vaccinated Cats

Cats that have been vaccinated for feline immunodeficiency virus should wear a collar with a tag or some other form of identification. A vaccinated cat should also be microchipped so that he can still be identified if his collar and tag become lost.

This is important because some shelters and rescues euthanize cats that test positive for FIV. Tags and microchips will help identify your cat and make sure he gets returned to you if he wanders away from home.

How Is FIV Treated?

Once infected with the feline immunodeficiency virus, there is no way to eliminate the virus from a cat's body. Cats that are sick from FIV are treated symptomatically. For example, if secondary bacterial infection is present, antibiotics may be necessary. The treatment will vary depending on the signs being seen.

Drugs that strengthen the immune system are often used and are not harmful. Anti-viral drugs (drugs that fight viruses) are also sometimes used and also do not appear to be harmful. However, it is not known whether any of these drugs actually help infected cats.

The most commonly used drugs include:

  • Acemannan
  • levamisole
  • ImmunoRegulin®
  • interferon alpha

It is important to remember that a positive test for FIV in a cat does not equate to a death sentence. Cats with positive tests for feline immunodeficiency virus that are healthy and free of signs of disease can live perfectly normal lives for an extended period of time.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.
Article Sources
The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. Cornell Feline Health Center

  2. Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). Merck Veterinary Manual

  3. Hartmann, Katrin et al. Efficacy of Antiviral Drugs against Feline Immunodeficiency VirusVeterinary sciences vol. 2,4 456-476. 18 Dec. 2015, doi:10.3390/vetsci2040456