My Cat Has AIDS

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Juice was an impulse buy.

It was early July 2003, and we were headed to the mall for a gift for Carly, about to turn 15. We parked near a bus equipped as an animal shelter.

Inside, kitten-filled cages lined the walls, except for one, which had a large, orange and white cat stuffed into it. Carly made a beeline for him and the attendant hoisted him out and handed him over. I reminded Carly that we already had 5 felines, but we knew he’d be left behind as the kittens were adopted.

FIV CAT #1
The shelter had named him Juice, and his owner had just gone to a nursing home. On the drive home, in the rearview mirror I saw Juice pop his head up from the box, swiveling like a periscope. We already knew he was one-of-a-kind.

Our house is on a dead end, with an acre of woods and several ways in and out. Juice, given sudden freedom, bolted. Our three daughters were home for the summer, and we plastered the neighborhood with signs and searched everywhere. After two weeks, we held a family meeting in the living room to discuss strategy – and Juice sauntered past.

Cats do that.

While AWOL, Juice fell into the company of two feral cats, who bit or scratched him, transmitting FIV – feline immunodeficiency virus. After the winter, I discovered the remains of the feral cats, flattened bones bearing matted hair, like macerated mummies, at the back of our shed.

The following summer, during a visit to middle daughter Sarah in Savannah, Carly called.

“Juice may have AIDS!” she wailed.

Carly and our eldest, Heather, had taken Juice for a routine physical, and the vet had picked up on persistent ear mites and swollen, bleeding gums. These were usually the earliest signs, she said, while sampling his blood to test for FIV antibodies.

DISCOVERY IN A CALIFORNIA CATTERY
Finding FIV occurred against a backdrop of full-blown AIDS panic, especially in the Bay area of California. “The medical insights on AIDS ran the gamut from depressing to dismal,” wrote Randy Shilts of the situation in 1985, in And The Band Played On. With nearly a million people in the U.S. infected, researchers were beginning to realize that the incubation period exceeded five years. The numbers, they knew, would explode.

Also in 1985, Niels Pedersen, DVM, PhD and Janet Yamamoto, PhD, and colleagues from the University of California, Davis heard about “a peculiar outbreak of disease” at a cattery in Petaluma, an hour’s drive from San Francisco. The facility housed 43 strays, some feral, in five pens. None had feline leukemia virus (FeLV).

From 1968 until 1982, all residents of the cattery had been healthy. Then pen D welcomed a newcomer, a kitten named Cy, who developed diarrhea, a drippy nose, and conjunctivitis. At age two, she miscarried. By her third year, Cy was skeletal and compulsively moved her mouth and tongue. Her gums bled and her teeth fell out. “Several blood transfusions were of temporary benefit but ultimately the emaciation, chronic infections, and anemia worsened and the cat died,” wrote the researchers.

By 1986, 8 more cats died in much the same way, all from pen D. The syndrome started with gum and ear infections, which was why our vet was so alarmed at the otherwise robust Juice. A few cats were discovered dead, after seeming well the night before. One poor animal was “found depressed and hypothermic with terminal hysteria and rage.”

The apparent immune breakdown spread. Kittens intentionally exposed to blood from sick cats got sick. The researchers isolated a novel virus from two sick kittens, cultured the virus, gave it to other kittens, observed these kittens get sick and isolated the virus from them. Koch’s postulates fulfilled.

Juice, office assistant.

DIAGNOSIS: CAT AIDS
We didn’t really expect Juice to have FIV, but he did.

Carly participated in the annual HIV/AIDS walk in Albany the September after his diagnosis, taking her place among others honoring their loved ones, and contributed her chalk drawing of a cat with Juice’s information.

Meanwhile, we didn’t do what we were supposed to do.

We didn’t keep Juice or our other cats indoors.

We didn’t test our other cats. And if we had, and they had been positive, we wouldn’t have vaccinated them. Vaccinated pets who’d wandered into shelters had been euthanized because the antibody response to vaccine is indistinguishable from that to infection, even before symptoms arise. Our vet had mentioned the vaccine, halfheartedly.

What was the point of all this intervention? Our crew stayed among themselves, were too mellow to bite or scratch, and if we kept them indoors, where I write, I’d go insane. But this was a very anti-science situation for me, advising against a test that would identify disease before symptoms (like genetic tests) and refusing to vaccinate.

For the next year, Juice was healthy. Then sores appeared, everywhere, and wouldn’t heal. He oozed blood and pus to the point that his coat bore pink patches; he flung phlegm. His hair fell out in clumps and he scratched constantly. If he could have read the Science paper, he’d have recognized his “chronic severe pustular dermatitis” and “extremely thin, rough hair coat.” He apparently missed the part about weight loss.

Years passed. Gradually Juice’s skin cleared up and his glossy coat regrew. But then he began drooling and his mouth swelled hideously, deforming his face. He started sneezing and dripping, fortunately only from his front end.

Yet Juice never became depressed like the original cattery cats – quite the opposite. He’s charmingly sociable. And so “juice” as a verb entered the family lexicon.

“You haven’t truly been welcomed into the Lewis home until you’ve been juiced,” explains Heather, referring to the phenomenon of Juice detonating at close range, hurling multicolored mucus. He’d famously do this at parties, where he’d plop himself on any available human and settle in until the next eruption.

In the fall of 2011, Juice became gravely ill with a systemic infection that rendered him unresponsive. Antibiotics saved him. Last spring the vet removed many rotting teeth. In days Juice perked up, his face deflating to normal proportions as he happily gummed the hard food, refusing the wet goop the vet had suggested.

Today Juice is enjoying his fifth or so life. He’s slowed down. Capturing him for a vet visit used to require a three-person battle plan, but now he doesn’t even awaken as I drop him into the once-dreaded cat box. He still drips. A shot of antibiotics in the tush every 2 months keeps the serious infections away. At his last check-up, he’d gained weight – he’s a very solid 20 pounds.

AN IMMUNODEFICIENCY VIRUS BY ANY OTHER NAME
Naming viruses is tricky, both for scientific reasons and because human egos can get in the way. The name must have meaning, to distinguish the types of viruses that live within any particular species.

Cats get lots of retroviruses, which have RNA as their genetic material: the very common FeLV, feline sarcoma virus, endogenous type C onconavirus, feline syncytium-forming virus. HIV and FIV belong to a subtype called lentivirus, which means “slow virus” – incubation time is typically years. In contrast, distemper can start just two days after exposure.

The UC Davis researchers first named the new virus “feline T-lymphotropic lentivirus” (FTLV), because dubbing it FIV without further experiments would be “presumptuous.” Given the timing of the mid 1980s, I suspect they wished to avoid the embarrassing turf war over who discovered HIV : was it Robert Gallo or Luc Montagnier?

HIV’s first name was HTLV, for human T lymphotropic virus, due to initial misclassification. AIDS, too, had another name: GRID, for “gay-related immune deficiency,” circa 1981. That vanished with the discovery of the disease in other groups.

FIV resembles HIV, shares some of its genes, but has a small, cone-like protrusion. Cats can’t transmit FIV to humans, nor can humans give HIV to cats. But FIV is more similar to HIV than are lentiviruses from goats, sheep, and horses to each other. Conquering AIDS may come from untangling the pathways of lentivirus evolution.

Just as HIV likely evolved from simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), FIV originated from a lentivirus seen today in lions, with variants in  pumas (aka mountain lions or cougars), cheetahs, and  panthers. Chimps and lions live with their lentiviruses, in health.

FIV CAT #2
With Juice constantly sneezing, snuffling, and snoring, it was clear that we couldn’t increase our cat population. I was sad.

Then one day last March, I wandered into a pet store hosting an adoption clinic. I gazed at the homeless felines, especially a beautiful fellow who looked like he was wearing a Tuxedo.

Artie, up for adoption to an FIV home.

“Are you interested in adopting a cat?” asked a cat lady.

“Yes, but I can’t.”

“Are you allergic?”

“No. But I have a cat with FIV. So I can’t get a healthy cat.”

The lady launched into a lecture in defense of FIV cats, but remembering Juice’s recent brush with death by infection, I wasn’t convinced. Then she said something I hadn’t thought of.

“That cat there. The Tuxedo. He’s FIV positive. Take him!” And she handed me a piece of paper.

“In a million years, I never expected to see my face on an adoption flyer!” read the announcement, beneath a photo of Artie. His owner was dying of cancer, and could no longer care for him, so the  Animal Support Project brought him to a cat adoption clinic in the pet store in Albany sponsored by Orange Street Cats. No one knew how he’d become infected.

But we couldn’t just waltz in and take Artie. We had to go home and download an extensive contract more detailed than the college application Common Form. And then ensued a several-week investigation that would put the FBI to shame. Finally, when we passed the cat police qualifications, a cat social worker conducted a home visit.

We’d recently lost a brother-sister pair to very old age, which was in our favor. When the cat social worker sat at our dining room table and started shuffling papers, the remaining 3 Lewis cats jumped up to investigate. Juice rubbed his perpetually runny nose on the visitor, as we recited the genealogy of all our cats, tortoises, assorted rodents and lagomorphs, and hedgehog.

The social worker then asked a series of questions.

If the new cat peed on the floor, what would you do?

Clean it up.

If the cat vomited on your bed, what would you do?

Change the sheets.

If the cat seemed upset, what would you do?

Talk to him.

We passed.

Two weeks later, the nice cat lady delivered Artie, and a huge contraption that unfolded into a cage. We set it up in my office.

We’d gotten our other cats in varied places: a sorority house at Indiana University (cat #1, Angie, white Persian). A poison-ivy-infested cornfield that landed Larry in the ER (cat #2, Sydney, American shorthair). A petrified forest in Saratoga (cat #4, Bullwinkle, long-haired grey). We’d never put a cat in a cage.

Yet according to the detailed instructions, Artie was to stay in prison, with his blankie, for a week. Then we were to let him out for short periods, and gradually work up to freedom.

The first morning in my office, Artie stared at me from behind bars. I sprung him. He spent the first week biting my feet as he followed me everywhere, then began to explore. Jelly taught him how to drink from faucets, and with astonishing speed, Artie was absorbed into the continuum of Lewis catdom.

Artie remains healthy. A few days ago we walked into the pet store to a chorus of “Artie’s parents!” I signed up for more FIV cats.

Artie, now 3, is FIV positive, but healthy. How and why may provide clues to HIV/AIDS. (Credit: Dr. Wendy Josephs)

So is this blog just an excuse to post cat photos? No, I could’ve done that on Facebook. But the fact that Juice and Artie will likely live normal lifespans, with manageable symptoms, makes me wonder why this isn’t true for many people with HIV/AIDS. I’m also intrigued by what we can learn from the problems that the FIV vaccine has encountered. I’ll address these in another post.

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41 Responses to My Cat Has AIDS

  1. Roulette Wm. Smith Phd says:

    Fascinating story and chronology!

    Having worked with persons who are HIV positive and seen many of them now enjoying long-term survival because of excellent drugs and medical treatments, I now wonder if comparable meds are available for FIV? Also, is there any evidence that vaccines against pathogens that are opportunistic in FIV effectively would vaccinate against activation of FIV (i.e., an indirect approach to vaccinations for FIV and HIV; cf. R Smith and R Shadel 2012 patent #7,826,974 B2)?

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  2. Ricki Lewis says:

    Hi Roulette! Juice got better all on his own. Felines and other species have seemed to have come to terms with their lentiviruses, without intervention other than treating the infections as they happen. That is they apparently aren’t sick enough to require antiretrovirals. It is the ability to live with the viruses that has probably dampened the severity of the associated immunodeficiency. Thanks for responding!

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    • Mary Loughran says:

      Hi Ricky i was wondering if you could email in private , I help run an animal welfare group , we have a facebook page called lost and found pets county Antrim / Northern Ireland with over 7thousand users I would really love you to put something together in your findings of FIV in cats so I can share and help get the word out as I feel some of our rescue workers have had cats PTS that were healthy when there is no need – im keen to hear from you so i can share your findings , and investigations , we link in with a number of vets and animal rescue groups and i feel its important that we help educate those who fear this virus and i could use your help – Tigger was gravely ill , he was only 2.75kg in weight , he had progressive inflammatory bowel disease , Non-Regenerative Anemia and FIV ..I think had i got a blood transfusion and had him opened up to investigate that he may have also had cancer of the intestinal lining – I sorely miss him and cant get that day out of my mind but I do believe he may have gone himself so at least i know he died with dignity and with me by his side

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  3. Mark J M says:

    Excellent story! Probably the only question I have regarding both HIV/FIV is a basic explanation of how the virus replicates itself. I’ve heard it incorporates or splices itself into the RNA. Considering your background in genetics, you’d be capable of giving a brief insight. I have cats in my family but none FIV+ and will eventually own horses again, but they can’t be EIA+ or I’d have to keep them on my own property, isolated.

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    • Hi Mark. I had so much info — including an interview with a co-inventor of the FIV vaccine — that I saved the heavy-duty science for a second post.
      Retroviruses must first copy their RNA into DNA, which they do using the enzyme reverse transcriptase. Then that DNA integrates into a host chromosome and is replicated. RNAs are small molecules that carry the sequences for particular genes, or other small sections. (There are lots of RNAs, and the tiniest ones, the microRNAs, help to control gene expression, so size doesn’t matter.) Also the DNA is perpetuated whenever the host cell divides. RNA molecules are shorter-lived. Some viruses (called lytic) use the cell’s machinery to make viral proteins and more of themselves. Others (lysogenic) stay, quietly, in our chromosomes forever. They couldn’t do these things in RNA. I hope that helps!

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  4. Pingback: There’s a Vaccine for the Cat Version of HIV. So Why Are Cats Still Getting Sick? | Smart News

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  6. Erik says:

    I am on the BOD of Orange St Cats, I’ve had HIV/AIDS since 2004 and I have a cat named Gregor who has FIV. My big fluffy man has had few complications due to his FIV and spends most of his time attempting to coax more treats from me. Thank you for this blog as there are still many misconceptions about FIV and many people whoeuthanize cats for the

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  7. Shannon McHale says:

    Hello, I have been reading your posts on FIV cats and have found it very helpful although I don’t understand some of the medical terminology. I have suddenly become aware of feline aids today when one of my beautiful furry children tested positive, to say the least my husband and I were shocked because we just were not aware of such a disease in cats and I feel somewhat embarrassed by our lack of knowledge.

    Our story began with our “Snowbell” she is now 5.5 years old and we have had her since birth born in our house. She started to go outside and reluctantly we realized that there was no chance of keeping her indoors, although she never strays far from home and she stays in most of the time she has become an indoor-outdoor cat. Snowbell had a few litters and from her last we have our little 10 month old boy “Oliver”. He remains an indoor cat not that he doesn’t try to get outdoors but we have managed to get him to stay in.

    About 2 years ago we had a tom cat that would come around who was very timid and rough looking, we would feed him but he would never get very close to us. We realized after when the connection started to became clear that he was in fact Oliver’s father..so our cats are a family- mother, father and son. Garfield our father the tom cat started to come around more and than one day inside the house. Although he still goes outdoors he became so comfortable in our house that this has become his home. He comes home mostly to eat and sleep and I clean his ears and scratches if he fights..we still have yet to get him fixed but plan on that soon. Other than that we assumed he was a healthy guy..he is about 17 pounds and extremely lovable. We took both the boys to the vet for their regular vaccinations a week ago, our girl is up to date and is now fixed. As per requested Garfield the big daddy being the tom cat was sent back today for more tests that revealed that he in fact tested positive for FIV.

    My husband and I are devastated and not sure where to go from here. Now the mommy and baby have to go to the vet tomorrow and get tested. We feel helpless because in this case and although Garfield just showed up abandoned on our door step this is his home and family now. We will do what it takes to look after him but at what risk to the other cats we just don’t know. The only stages we see are that he has horrible teeth and bad ears that I clean every week..he snores like a human but seems to be happy and healthy at best. The vet assures us seeing that the other cats may have been exposed already that there is no need for immediate decisions and to wait and see. I called spca and they said what I dreaded to hear.. euthanize, we just don’t have the heart to do this.

    I am just wondering if you have any insight in this matter…this would be so much appreciated..today I cried so much, researched everything I can find online and it brought me to you.

    thanks so much!

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    • Shannon,your FIV cats can probably live near-normal lifespans and not suffer much. I am going to post a follow-up. I’ve interviewed several veterinarians, including the co-developer of the vaccine and the head of marketing for the vaccine. No one has suggested euthanizing FIV cats. Yes, we’re supposed to keep them indoors, but that’s a lot easier said than done. The shelter may have given you bad advice because they euthanize the cats.

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  9. Dixie Testa Kent says:

    Our story is very similar to Shannon’s above. We finally captured the neighborhood tomcat- a big, beautiful orange cat we named Thomas- and we learned that he is FIV positive. The vet says no signs of the disease- his teeth are great, he’s big and healthy, but his fur is VERY thin and rough. He also has lots of white scars on his skin but I think those are from fighting. Not that he wanted to, but that’s what testosterone-filled animals do! He lived at the clinic for two weeks and we visited him every day- but I couldn’t take seeing him couped up in an isolation room, so we brought him home. He now lives in our guest room with a 44 inch baby gate with a door and then another baby gate on top of that- this way he can see out and smell without being actually out. I’ve read two books on integrating cats and not a thing in either book has worked. We have five regular (non FIV cats) and whenever we try to introduce them, OUR cats (the skinny, meak looking ones) want to pounce on Thomas- we’ve never seen this side of them in 8-12 years!! Meanwhile, Thomas starts growling and looks like he wants to eat them but he truly does want to avoid conflict. Two of the five cats have started spraying and peeing all over our house- both of them are going to the clinic to be boarded for a couple of weeks- our vet thinks that might break the cycle since it is a new behavior. We are also fostering five kittens- the kittens go in Thomas’ room and lay with him and he cleans them and I think he enjoys the company. We take turns laying in there with him but this is no life to have long term. Can anyone help me?? I don’t want to endanger our cats but they are willing to fight with Thomas and from what I’ve read, it wouldn’t be good for our cats to bite Thomas either. This poor boy has been through so much- the whole situation breaks my heart. Should we hang in there? I don’t know that I would ever trust our cats with him- he could pulverize them and they are too dumb to realize it. Thanks in advanced for all your help. I really wish there was a little old lady who lived next door with no cats and Thomas could live there and we’d pay his medical bills. :)

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    • Hi Dixie. Thanks for sharing! I think with time your cats may adjust to each other, but in the meantime, Thomas should not be around kittens. Their immune systems are still developing and if they have a scratch and he’s grooming them, he could infect them. (Check with a vet on this.)

      I don’t know what to do about the pee smell everywhere either. Cats just do that.

      We lost one of our healthy cats just a week ago to very old age so we’re down to four, two of whom have FIV. Good luck with your crew! They are lucky to have you.

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  10. OR Suz says:

    2 FIV+ & 4 uninfected cat household- all indoors
    Dodger going on 4 yrs. with us (age 5.5) & Ed going on 1 yr. (age ?) are given Elderberry tincture and Lysine w/ wet food every evening, and they are FINE.
    Please help continue to get the word out here in the US that this designation is not an automatic death sentence.

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  11. Nicole Moseley says:

    Thanks so much for this blog! Reading your story and the stories of others that followed have helped to ease my mind about the health of my cat. I can’t help sharing my own story in hopes that it will have the same effect. Mr. Whiskers is 13. About a year ago we went to the vet for his normal visit and to have his itchy ears checked out. One of the nurses had opened a FIV test by mistake so they went ahead and tested him. I’m glad they did because it was positive. He had yeast infections in both ears and 2 rotten teeth that had to be removed. A few weeks ago we went back for his dental cleaning and they ended up removing 2 more teeth. Yesterday we had a follow up visit so the Dr could check his mouth and make sure everything was healing properly. She asked if I thought Mr whiskersNow I’m supposed to brush his teeth everyday with enzymatic toothpaste to prevent further decay

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  12. Nicole Moseley says:

    Sorry I got cut off…. anyway the Dr had asked me if I thought I could brush his teeth. I haven’t started yet but I figure its worth a try. Anyway other than the teeth issues Mr. Whiskers is in great health and is very active. He is our only cat and the vet said no more cats. I can’t imagine what it would be like to keep him separated…..that has to be hard. I wish all of you the best of luck and long happy lives for your cats!

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  13. Alan says:

    Thanks for the info. Very informative and encouraging.

    My boy Lucky has Feline AIDS and has recently presented with a mouth infection, hair loss and constant scratching. The vet discovered a number of rotting teeth which we were hesitant to remove due to fear of complications after surgery. Reading about Juice has given me hope. After a few courses of antibiotic have failed to clear up the mouth infection I feel I have no choice but to have his teeth removed. I was happy to hear that Juice responded well to the antibiotics and teeth removal. I was also encouraged by the antibiotic shot given every two months to keep things in check. I was wondering what type of antibiotics were administered, and at what strength? Any additional information is greatly appreciated!

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  14. Ricki Lewis says:

    I admit I don’t know which antibiotics Juice receives, but it really does help! He had one a few weeks ago. He’d been sneezing almost constantly — now he’s fine. Removing the teeth sounded horrific and cruel, but NOT doing it is cruel. I can’t imagine having half my teeth rotting. Juice has been so much better since the dental surgery. He is 10 now and really has slowed down a lot — but it’s a little hard to tell with cats. Thanks for sharing!

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  15. Emit says:

    Hello, I recently picked up a stray. After taking him to the vet, we learned he has cat AIDS. I’m not sure if he can be mingled with my other healthy cats. What would you suggest? I don’t want them to get sick too, but I do know that aids cats can live long healthy lives. Suggestions?

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    • A vet would advise you not to adopt the FIV kitty if you have kittens, but it is difficult to transmit to adult cats. It requires blood contact. None of my non FIV cats have ever been infected from my FIV ones. Ask a vet though, and good luck! FIV cats are just fine!

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  16. Jeanne says:

    A few weeks ago we rescued a stray kitten. She was only about 2-3 weeks old at the time. I brought her to my vet and one of the girls, kindly, took her home to nurse her & take care of her until she was old enough to come home with me. The other day she was tested, and found to be HIV positive, but feline leukemia-free. She is now about 7 weeks old. There is a possibility that this is a false-positive, because she might have been tested too young and that she might really be negative. I would love to take her home, but am in a total panic that my other cats might become infected if she truly is positive. They are not at all aggressive. 2 of them are about 1-1/2 years old, 1 is probably about 8 years old. The 2 young ones are indoor cats, but the older one is an indoor-outdoor cat. The kitten would be an indoor cat only.
    I am so torn. Most of your comments deal with older FIV cats…Please share your thoughts with me on this. Thank you.

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    • You should ask a vet who is familiar with FIV. I’m not sure how old your other cats must be to minimize the risk of transmission. It spreads easier to younger cats. Back when we just had one FIV cat, we did not test the others. Besides the expense, the results wouldn’t affect how we treated them. FIV cats can live full and healthy lives. I’ve encountered a lot of ignorance and stigmatization. As far as I know our FIV cats have not transmitted it. We now have 3 out of 4 with FIV! Thanks for writing.

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    • Sue Steele says:

      Please don’t panic there really is no need,as long as the cats don’t give deep bites to each other they are fine.I have had many FIV+and non FIV cats living together over the years and not once have my non fiv cats been infected with FIV.They don’t catch it easily( by sharing dishes,grooming each other etc)as long as they don’t fight there should not be a problem.There is a lot of mis-information and myth out there and animal shelters that suggest putting animals to sleep bacause of FIV is disgusting and they should know better!I hope this helps you.

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      • Hi Jan. FIV is NOT a reason to euthanize a cat. Two of mine are just fine, and the third, who’s much older, just has the sniffles. There is a great deal of misinformation out there — which is why this blog post is still active after many months. Thanks everyone!

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  17. Mary Loughran says:

    Hi , after a google search i came across Juice and his story , its lovely and im sorry to hear that Rescues , Animal welfare and vets still have the fear that an FIV cat should be put to sleep. I rescued Tiggy in Oct 2012 , his first visit to the vet declared he had to have 6 teeth removed and his gums were black and rotted , other than elevated BUN levels he seemed ok , during his first few months with me his stomach gurgled a lot and he regularly threw up foam and water , 6 vet visits and a 4 day stay at the vet I had asked twice for full blood works but never did any of the vets test him for the FIV virus. 6 weeks ago he got severe diarrhea and threw up large amounts water and food , he lost so much weight in a week that his body condition was awful as well as being dehydrated , after 4days on an IV drip he was then released with the vets conclusion that he was being treated for Inflammatory Bowel Disease but the vet still had concerns that the lining of his intestines was very thickened and again no FIV test was given so I assumed he was clear. When he left the vets he then developed an upper respiratory infection which cleared in 5 days with synulox antibiotics , then just last week he became so so weak , his breathing was heavy and I took him to the vet again , it was only then they discovered he had severe anemia and later an FeLV and FIV test was carried out in which the FIV test was positive.. I was advised due to this and other illnesses combined it was kinder to lat him rest in peace , I asked was there anything could be done to save him but was told I would only prolong his suffering. He was only 14 years old and i am heartbroken as he already had such an awful life before i rescued him and feel that since he was in my care I let him down.. I guess what I need to know is can an FIV positive cat receive a blood transfusion for severe non- regenerative anemia , he ate and drank right to the end he never went off his food , he responded well to steroids and did start gaining weight and antibiotics and although he was arthritic and weak with anemia , FIV and IBD was letting him go the best option for him. I have 3 of my own cats and he and another were my rescues. Non of my lot have been tested but do you think they should be in order to have them treated accordingly ? I wouldn’t even consider that FIV would make a difference to me and my pets as far as im concerned it’s just keeping on top it but maybe having them tested can help the vet prescribe the right treatment should they become ill in the future as after this happened I have been reading and researching FIV and I think the high dose of Presidone steriods didnt help Tiggys immune and may have compromised him but had the vet known what he was dealing with a different approach and drugs given could have given him a better outcome.. Im still grieving and now wonder was the advice to have him put to sleep the right thing to do- I think anyone who advises having an FIV cat PTS is out of their mind , Tiggy got 14 years in this world not all were good but he fought every step of the way and FIV or not id give anything to have him home

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  18. Mary Loughran says:

    PS – All my cats are neutered and spayed and non fighting cats , Tiggy was the same , they are from the ages of 3 to 12 , all in great condition , healthy teeth and all eating and drinking well – Even if the FIV has been transmitted it makes no difference all that matters to me is that they are in good health and when in poor health im here to help – Just wish I could have helped Tiggy or known what I was dealing with back in 2012 or he may still be here and in better health now even with FIV

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    • Hi Mary. I’m so sorry about Tiggy. Juice is going to the vet soon, he has developed a bad respiratory infection despite having an antibiotic shot recently. He just seems run down and is sniffling a great deal. I wouldn’t test your other cats unless they can go outside and infect others. Treatment is just symptomatic. Juice tooth removal was extremely helpful, and he does get severe infections about once a year. Our other two FIV cats are much younger but are healthy and beautiful. Thanks for writing!

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      • Mary Loughran says:

        If it helps I was told that Oral antibiotics have a much better effect than the shot – or both just to make sure – That’s what I dont understand Tiggy fought off infections in no time even at 14 he was still a trooper – I know people say that having a sick pet put to sleep is the kinder thing to do but its the worst experience I have ever had in my life .. The vet nurse at the vets who advised to have him put to sleep is a friend in Rescue who has the same opinion as me and a few others about FIV cats , the only thing thats keeping me sane is if she advised this she genuinely thought it was the kindest thing for him , but I guess like any loss its the ones who left behind that suffer – Thank you

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        • I’m really bad at getting pills down cat gullets!

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          • Mary Loughran says:

            lol well im good with my own but one of the rescue is hard work , you could wrap it up in ham , or put in inside a tuna chunk or heat some cooked chicken and put it in there – ferals dont fall for it but most domestic kittys will

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          • Mary Loughran says:

            How did the vet visit go x

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  19. OR Suz says:

    I get notified whenever comments are made here and I’m glad to see it’s still an active post.
    I want to share my experiences with our second FIV+ cat, Ed, through one of my first blog entries.
    Mainly this is to reaffirm to readers that not all is lost with such a diagnosis and to second guess advice (however well intentioned) from DVM which goes against your gut feeling.
    http://chezstanminn.blogspot.com/2013/05/ed_6.html

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    • Jan Harper says:

      Several weeks ago my older 13 yr old cat, Tyger could not urinate so I took him to the vet and found out he had 10 kidney stones. He was operated on and after being at the vet hospital on IV fluids for a week was allowed to come home. Tyger then developed this sneeze and my other cat, who I have had for about 5 yrs started sneezing. I took Rusty to the vet because he seemed worse that my older cat. It was thought to be just URI and was given a steroid shot and sent home with antibiotic/steroid medicine. Well by the weekend, today to be exact, he became worse so now I am sitting here heartbroken, I have just found out today he has FIV. I don’t have a clue what to do but my husband wants to have him put to sleep but I don’t have the heart. I love him so much but now I am also worried about my older cat because he is still sneezing. Both of these cats were thrown out at our driveway and Tyger, the older cat even had a hip injury when he was “tossed”. I took him to the vet and he said as long as he gets around good (in which he did/does) he would not do anything. They were thrown out at the right house because I have loved these two as if they were my children and I just wish I knew what I need to do. I do not want them to suffer but I love them and want them as long as I can keep them. Help, still crying….

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      • Mary Loughran says:

        Hi , sorry you are so upset but you can be assured that you don’t have to put your cat to sleep just because he has FIV all you have to do is have him treated until he gets well again , you may even find if your older cat hasnt been tested he may have it too , older cats immunes are stronger to the virus and if they dont fight and insert deep bites then there is no issue , the only reason to ever have a cat put to sleep is if they are truly suffereing and no treatment wull make them well , FIV cats just have a low immune and may take a little longer for infections to clear thats all – If he is healthy and eating and not suffering you have no reason to have him put to sleep – FIV in cats is hype and once he is treated he should recover – Most cats prob have FIV if they go outside and most owners including myself wont know they have it – I have 4 cats at home none have been tested for FIV , why?? because it wont make any difference to me , if they get sick they will get treatment to get better , if they are gravely ill , lost a lot of weight and show signs of suffering then perhaps if nothing else can be done to help them then i would consider having them pts .. I hope this makes you feel better but dont have your cat PTS have him treated for his infection and get him home – it makes no difference xo

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  20. Maureen Bradley says:

    I am so glad I came across this article. I adopt a cat in May (remy age 6) he had lived in an open cage shelter for 3 years . Having just lost a cat to pancreatitis in March I did ask many questions about Remy’s health his eyes were runny and he had an ear infection etc. I was given paper work that said he had tested negative for FIV. My vet (ex vet) had looked in his mouth and said his teeth were fine “unless you are a purist” Well the smell from his mouth continued and I took him to another vet she said he has dental reabsorption and stomatitis. Blood work came back FIV positive. He is scheduled for a full cleaning and extraction of the reabsorbed teeth. She said they leave the roots intact. I am afraid of that because everything I have read indicates it is very important to remove everything in the socket including roots and I don’t know what to do.She also said I should isolate him from my other cats Leo * and Desmond 10 months. That hardly seems right given that they all get along so well. I am not going to isolate him. I am not sure what to do about the teeth. for x-rays blood work and 2 extractions (if he only needs 2) the cost is almost $1,200 a dental specialist is over an hour away and twice the cost.I found your article to be greatly encouraging and will do y best for Remy.

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    • Tina says:

      Yes, you’re correct. Everything has to come out. If even a fragment of root is left behind, inflammation will persist. Radiographs are extremely important too.

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      • Tina says:

        Oh, and as for isolating him, nonsense. If they get along with no fighting (deep bite fighting) they are fine. I have 3 other cats, who are not Fiv+ and they all do fine together.

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  21. Maureen Bradley says:

    That should read Leo age 8. Leo by the way has some health problems and I was afraid Remy may infect him but since all they do is snuggle he should be fine. little Desmond likes to torment Remy so that does worry me somewhat.

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  22. Tom Hapka says:

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful article, and for taking in cats with FIV. Far too many of these beautiful cats go without homes each year because people have misconceptions about the risks involved with having an FIV+ cat. This issue has been near and dear to my heart since my own cat, Jac, was diagnosed with FIV a number of years ago. I published a book about our own experiences with FIV, including strategies for cats who are seriously ill and preventative measures for those not yet showing symptoms. FIV+ cats can make wonderful pets, and many go for years with few or no health problems at all.

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  23. Tina says:

    Saw the above post regarding stomatitis, reabsorption teeth and Fiv + cat. I too, have an Fiv + cat who had chronic mouth problems for a year. He has/had stomatitis and I had all his teeth removed. He did not respond so I took him for a second opinion. He also had reabsorption teeth and roots were missed. Upon doing radiographs, eight roots were found and removed. Roots, fragments everything HAS to come out. He is doing better each day now. His second surgery was 6-7 weeks ago. Hope this helps.

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