For many years there has been a widespread misunderstanding around the topic of FIV+ cats. However, a recent long-term study conducted by Purdue University’s College of Veterinary examined FIV+ cats in shelters and drew two important conclusions: FIV-positive cats can live with FIV-negative cats and not infect the FIV-negative cats during normal day-to-day interactions, and mother cats infected with FIV don’t pass the virus on to their kittens.
While this has been a widely known and accepted fact among cat experts, the general public is generally misinformed when it comes to FIV+ cats and the risk of transmission to other household cats. The study confirms that there is no reason for FIV cats to be adopted only into homes with other FIV-positive cats. The disease is transmitted only by deep bite wounds, which happens only if the cats get into intense fights, which can usually be easily prevented by taking the necessary steps.
The incorrect belief that mother cats can pass FIV on to their kittens is widely believed by cat owners. As a result, many thousands of cats and kittens have been unnecessarily euthanized. These otherwise adoptable animals are destined for euthanasia because of the false beliefs perpetuated by stereotypes and misinformation.
Compounding this issue is that cat owners often confuse FIV for FeLV (the feline leukemia virus), which is transmissible through cohabitation and casual contact. These two diseases are retroviruses and both affect the immune system. However, there is a critical difference. FIV does not easily cross the mucous membranes (the lining of the mouth, nose, eyes, genitals, and intestines), which is why it’s so difficult for FIV to be transmitted to other cats.
Ultimately, this study confirms what cat advocates have known for years - FIV+ cats can live a long and healthy life in the company of other cats in the home, without significant risk of transmitting the disease. It is time to end the stigma surrounding FIV and FIV+ cats, and place them in loving homes just as all cats deserve.
Alley Cat Rescue is leading in the way in promoting humane and compassionate care for ALL cats.