What are FIV and FeLV?
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is often confused with Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV). Although they are both viruses that attack the immune system, they are not the same.
FIV is commonly transmitted via blood and saliva e.g. bite wounds, whereas FeLV is commonly transmitted via body secretion exchanges e.g. mutual grooming, sharing of litter boxes, and sharing of food and water bowls.
FIV and FeLV are primarily transmitted among feral and outdoor cats. To reduce the risk of getting these infectious diseases, we strongly encourage owners to keep their cats indoors. Sterilisation of cats can also help reduce hostility and aggression among cats, hence lowering the chances of viruses transmitting through fights.
They share similar symptoms, such as anaemia, chronic oral infection and inflammation, recurring skin, bladder and upper respiratory issues, and persistent fever, poor appetite or diarrhoea. We encourage owners to run a blood test to identify/confirm the virus especially when your cat lives in a multi-cat household.
Having either virus is NOT a death sentence to the affected cat. With proper management and care the contacted cat can still lead a comfortable life. Cats with FIV can have normal life spans, while those with FeLV often have shorter lifespans, less than three years after becoming infected.
Both viruses do not survive long outside the host’s body and cannot be transmitted to humans.
Can FIV/FeLV cats live together with non-infected cats?
FIV cats may live a normal, healthy lifespan. Since transmission of the virus is through blood and saliva via bite wounds, FIV-positive cats that live harmoniously with non-FIV cats can cohabit with a low risk of transmission of the virus. Grooming between FIV and non-FIV cats does not cause the transmission of the virus.
FeLV cats may live significantly shorter lives due to the behaviour of the virus. The virus has been linked to a common cause of cancer, and as it is also a blood disorder, it will lead to the weakening of the immune system and cause secondary infections in the host. Because the FeLV virus can easily be transmitted through saliva, nasal secretions, urine and faeces, it is not recommended to keep an FeLV-positive cat with non-infected cats.
How and when to test for FIV and FeLV?
Most veterinary clinics can carry out FIV and FeLV tests.
A small blood sample must be collected from your cat to run the test, and the results will be ready within 15-20 minutes.
From as young as 4-6 months of age, kittens can be tested for FIV/FeLV. We highly recommend checking for the FIV/FeLV status of your newly acquired cat prior to introducing it to a multi-cat household.
Are there treatments or vaccinations for FIV/FeLV?
There is currently no treatment for FIV/FeLV.
A cat with FIV/FeLV can still live well and potentially lead a normal life if kept happy and healthy with lots of environmental enrichment and attention, coupled with a well-balanced and nutritious diet.
Vaccinations against the FeLV virus are available on the market. Please do check with your veterinary clinic for availability as such vaccinations are not as commonly stocked.