Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: July 7, 2023 by Crystal Uys

Owner hugging her cat

FIV is an often misunderstood condition. According to the Feline Health Center at Cornell University, the virus affects approximately 2.5 to 5 percent of healthy cats in the United States, with slightly higher rates in cats that are sick or at high risk for infection. FIV is a lentivirus, which means it moves very slowly and gradually affects a cat’s immune system. It is passed from cat to cat through blood transfusions and serious, penetrating bite wounds. FIV cannot be transmitted to humans.

One of the longstanding myths about FIV is that FIV-positive cats can’t live long, healthy lives. Nothing could be more wrong. Many cats with FIV live well into their teens if they are receiving proper care and monitoring throughout their lives. My former office cat, Virginia, lived to be 14, despite her FIV-positive status.

Since the FIV virus attacks the cat’s immune system, immune support is one of the most important aspects of caring for FIV-positive cats. In many ways, FIV+ cats need to be treated like humans with compromised immune systems.

Top 3 Ways to Care for FIV Positive Cats

1. Reduce Stress

Stress causes illness in cats and humans, and while it may seem that there isn’t much that could stress out spoiled housecats, it actually doesn’t take much for cats to get stressed. most cats like their familiar routines, so anything out of the ordinary, whether it’s another new cat, a move, home remodeling, or even a change in the position of household furnishings, can cause them to feel stressed.

In addition to changes in the environment, your stress can also have a negative impact on your cat, to the point of making her ill.

Young woman owner with white cat
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

2. Support your cat’s immune system

Keeping your cat’s immune system strong requires a multipronged approach, and includes the following:

  • Keep your cat exclusively indoors.
  • Provide an enriched environment to allow the cat to express the natural behaviors of their species.
  • Ensure your cat has always access to fresh and purified drinking water.
  • Train the cat to allow regular tooth brushing.
  • Feed a species-appropriate, minimally processed, grain-free canned or homecooked diet. Raw diets are not recommended for FIV+ cats.
  • Add quality supplements to boost the immune system, such as probiotics, digestive enzymes, and antioxidants.
  • Minimize vaccinations.
  • Flea and tick prevention products should be discussed with your veterinarian according to the risk assessment in your area.
  • Limit exposure to toxic chemicals in your cat’s environment.
  • Avoid overuse of steroids and/or antibiotics.

3. Regular veterinary exams

Veterinarian explaining to woman cat medical condition
Image Credit: Nestor Rizhniak, Shutterstock

FIV+ cats should receive veterinary checkups at least twice a year, regardless of their age. In between exams, it’s important that cats are monitored closely for even subtle signs of illness. Signs such as loss of appetite, weight loss, poor hair coat, diarrhea, or vomiting require immediate veterinary attention.

Get your cat’s mouth and teeth cleaned and checked regularly to prevent dental or gum infections and complications.

Even though FIV is a serious condition, it is by no means a death sentence. Holistic treatments, when used in conjunction with regular veterinary care, can help keep your FIV+ cat happy and healthy for many years.

Featured Image Credit: Wanwajee Weeraphukdee, Shutterstock

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