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Last Updated:
2/19/2024 7:36 AM

That stigma surrounding FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) comes from lack of knowledge. Some common FIV myths: It's highly contagious (It's not). Cats can't live long with FIV (Yes, they can). And the most devastating myth of all: Testing positive for FIV is an automatic death sentence (It isn't). 
The virus itself isn't the killer; it's the misguided belief of shelter officials and even some veterinarians that the way to fight FIV is to euthanize infected cats. The result is that hundreds of thousands of cats are killed every year simply because they've been diagnosed with FIV.
Numerous studies show that the virus is not easily transmitted and that FIV-positive cats often live long and symptom-free lives.  Here is where you can find out the truth about FIV.  All the info highlighted in this section can be found at the below links.

Your cat might have kitty version of HIV, but not to worry
*Debunking the myths and fighting the stigma
*FIV: Catching a Bad Case of Rumors
*FIV Facts Sheet
*Cat FIV
*Study Shows FIV Positive cats can live with FIV Negative Cats 

What is FIV?
FIV is species-specific and can't be spread from one species to another. It progress slowly and may take years to produce symptoms.

FIV is a relatively hard virus to transmit because it can't exist for more than a few seconds in open air. The most common forms of transmission are through severe bite wounds and on rare occasions infection is transmitted from an infected mother cat to her kittens, usually during passage through the birth canal or when the newborn kittens ingest infected milk. Sexual contact is not a major means of spreading FIV. Casual, non-aggressive contact does not appear to be an efficient route of spreading FIV; as a result, cats in households with stable social structures where housemates do not fight are at little risk for acquiring FIV infections.

Common secondary infections associated with FIV include stomatitis, which is an inflammation of the mucous lining of the mouth; upper respiratory infections; and skin diseases. "None of these are life threatening," says Dix. "Non-FIV cats are susceptible to the same conditions, even with healthy immune systems."

FIV Facts 

1. The Feline Immuno-deficiency Virus is a slow virus that affects a cat's immune system over a period of years.

2. FIV is a cat-only disease and cannot be spread to humans or other non-felines.

3. FIV cats most often live long, healthy, and relatively normal lives with no 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 and playing. It is rarely spread from a mother to her kittens.

5. The virus can be spread through blood transfusions, badly infected gums, or serious, penetrating bite wounds. (Bite wounds of this kind are extremely rare, except in free-roaming, unneutered tomcats.)

6. A neutered cat, in a home, is extremely unlikely to infect other cats, if properly introduced.

7. Many vets are not educated about FIV since the virus was only discovered 15 years ago.

8. Despite what many people think, cats with this condition can live perfectly long, happy, healthy lives.

Letter from a volunteer at a no kill cat shelter in SW Florida

Dear PAWS, I have become a foster to a FIV+ cat. He was an outside cat and ended up on the losing end of a cat fight. My vet wanted to put him to sleep. I called the shelter where I volunteer (a no kill cat shelter) and they said "No do not put him to sleep. He can live a purrrrfectly healthy life!"  He has since been neutered, vaccinated and the leg cleaned up and has stitches for a couple of the bigger wounds. Through reading your site, I am relived to learn that it is very hard for him to transmit the FIV virus to my other cats. I do have him separated at this time with his own towels, litter and cleaning supplies just to be on the safe side since he does have open wounds. He's a very loving and happy cat. He is now listed on our site for adoption as a special needs cat. He's a gorgeous blue point Siamese with clear blue eyes and now gets to live indoors. I just wanted to thank you for having a great site and information that has put my mind at ease.

~Christopher P. (9-20-13)

 ***update 10/18/13: the kitty is no longer up for adoption as he is now part of the family and healing beautifully.

A letter from a long term FIV owner

I want to thank you so much for your informative truthful webpage on the FIV virus.  I discovered everything you wrote about.  I had 2 cats for many years.  One got FIV before he was 6  years old, when he became an indoor-only cat.  He lived together with another male and lived to be 19 years old.  The other male cat did not get it from him. 

And there were 2 cats living outside my apt 20 years ago.  These two cats loved each other and slept and cuddled together.  They would kiss each other on the mouth when they first saw each other after a short time.  He tested positive for FIV, and my vet then told me he had to be in a home with no cat or continue to live outside.  It was devastating.  I took in his friend and tested her.  She was negative!  I cannot believe my vet still demands a cat with FIV be an only cat and separated when I have seen cats living together for long periods and the virus does not pass from one cat to the other.  Unless they bite deeply (which usually does not happen in a household), the other cat should not get infected. 

I just took in a little old cat who is FIV positive.  I already have another cat, and they are telling me it's contagious but the little old cat has no teeth and is so gentle and would never bite the other much larger cat.

So THANK YOU SO MUCH for writing what my life experience has showed me about FIV.   I don't even think cats should be routinely tested for FIV anymore.  The vets make you think you have a death sentence for your cat, and that is not at all the case.

~Diane Eardley (5-29-2013)

A letter from one of our adopters, on FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus)

To Purrs and Whiskers:

Thank you so much for caring for Monty till we found each other.

He is the most lovable and playful cat I have ever had. I feel very lucky to have Monty since he tested FIV Positive (FIV+). I know that many shelters, etc will not keep an FIV+ cat and that many people are afraid to adopt them.

I would like to urge those considering adoption of an FIV cat to not let that factor stop them. FIV is not transmittable to humans and with otherwise good health and care, the cat can live a wonderful, long life.

My last cat was FIV+, and he was 16 yrs. old when he died, a ripe old age for any cat. I have had FIV+ cats with non-FIV cats together living in my home and FIV did not spread between them.

There are two things I would like to pass on to a prospective FIV cat owner:
Pick your veterinarian wisely. Opinion on FIV among vets varies. Make sure you have a vet who is comfortable treating FIV cats and has current knowledge. I had to change vets twice within the same animal hospital, and again after I moved, twice. Call the office and tell them you have an FIV cat and see what the response is. You’ll know when you hear it whether the veterinarian is right for you.

Second, is not to let any health issue go untreated for any length of time. FIV causes a weakened immune system. So, in my opinion, getting treatment early is a key to long life for the FIV cats.

So once again, thank you Ms. Mona and Purrs and Whiskers for caring for Monty. He is a lover. He enriches my life in a truly wonderful way.

If anyone would like to email me about owning an FIV cat, please feel free to send a note to and put FIV adoption in the subject line, so I don’t delete it as junk mail!

Very truly yours,
Carol Timko and Monty (aka Poufy)