Testing for FIV and How Feline AIDS Is Contagious

FIV FeLV Room Wizard 164.

 Rocky Mountain Feline Rescue/Flickr.com

Feline immunodeficiency virus is also known as FIV or feline AIDS. The disease is caused by a virus that is contagious and able to be passed from one cat to another. The contagious nature of the disease makes testing for FIV important.

Identifying cats that test positive for FIV allows cat owners to take precautions to help these cats lead longer, healthier lives.

Should Your Cat Be Tested for the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)?

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) has provided guidelines to determine which cats to test and when.

  • If your cat has not been tested previously, you should have him tested.
  • If you bring a new cat home, he should be tested for FIV before entering your household. He should be retested in 60 days.
  • If your cat is exposed to another cat with FIV, he should be tested 60 days later.
  • If your cat is sick, your veterinarian should test for FIV.
  • If you are going to vaccinate your cat for FIV, he should be tested first.

Testing for FIV

Testing for the feline immunodeficiency virus is performed with a small sample of blood. The ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) test is the most common test done to screen cats for FIV.

If this test is positive, a second test may be recommended to confirm infection. Usually, this is a test known as the Western Blot test.

What if My Cat Tests Positive for FIV?

If your cat tests positive for FIV, he can still live for a long time if you take some simple precautions. Remember that a cat that tests positive for the feline immunodeficiency virus may have a weakened immune system and may be susceptible to other infections as a result.

Protect your cat from these secondary infections by following these suggestions.

  • Keep your cat indoors.
  • Have your cat examined by your veterinarian at least twice a year. Your veterinarian will examine your cat and perform routine blood tests.
  • Do not feed your cat raw meat or eggs.
  • Have your cat spayed or neutered.
  • Keep your cat free of parasites. Fleas, ticks, heartworms, and intestinal worms are parasites that should be avoided.
  • Keep your cat up-to-date on his vaccinations.
  • Some veterinarians recommend keeping your FIV positive cat segregated from other cats in the household. This would be most important if the cats fight.
  • Seek veterinary help quickly if your cat becomes sick.

If your cat has a positive test for FIV, it simply means that he has been exposed to the virus. Your cat is a potential carrier of the disease and the possibility that he could pass the disease to other cats exists.

A positive FIV test does not mean that your cat is dying from the disease, though. Many cats with positive tests live perfectly normal lives if steps are taken to protect them from a secondary disease.

In the past, cats that tested positive for the feline immunodeficiency virus were frequently euthanized because it was believed that their prognosis was grave and they were a serious threat to the rest of the feline population. This is no longer true and euthanasia is no longer routinely recommended for cats testing positive for FIV.

Though FIV may be potentially contagious to other cats, it is not a threat to people.

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.