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At first, it sounds like a death sentence: the cat has AIDS. But what are the consequences of being infected with the feline immunodeficiency virus? We explain the signs and the course of the disease. Even if it is not curable, there is still hope for the velvet paw.

As the name suggests, this disease has many parallels with AIDS in humans. Infection with a virus – the “Feline Immunodeficiency Virus”, or FIV for short – is followed by many symptom-free years. The retroviruses responsible have an effect on the immune system, which they specifically weaken. Colloquially, we therefore also speak of the “feline immunodeficiency virus”.

Cat eenids: how does the infection work?

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FIV is widespread: Researchers assume around eleven percent of infected animals worldwide. Infection is particularly important for cats that are in human care. Because wild cats rarely suffer from the outbreak of feline AIDS due to their much shorter life expectancy. A reliable vaccination against FIV is not (yet) possible.

FIV: cat-to-cat transmission

The bullies among cats are particularly at risk: FIV is usually transmitted through bites. Many uncastrated males carry FIV and pass it on during turf wars. Sexual contact is also risky, as an FIV infection can occur during mating. However, this is less likely. Spaying and neutering cats are, therefore, an important step in preventing feline AIDS. House tigers that clean each other or share a basket and bowl are hardly in danger: the virus only survives a few seconds outside the cat’s body.

Is Cat AIDS Contagious to Humans or Dogs?

Here we can clearly give the all-clear: the feline immunodeficiency virus only attacks cats. Infecting other pets or even people is impossible.

Feline immune deficiency (FIV): symptoms and course

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FIV test and diagnosis

Your vet can detect FIV using an antibody blood test. A so-called rapid test or very young cats can lead to false-positive results. If the test is positive, your vet will usually arrange a second test to get clear results.

It makes sense to have a new, adult cat tested for FIV before moving in. In this way, you can adapt future treatments such as vaccinations and the living conditions of your future protégé. For example, a secure outdoor area or an apartment with a socially acceptable second cat would be ideal.

Phases of cat aids

  • Infection: After being infected with FIV, only some cats will experience symptoms. The virus multiplies in the T lymphocytes, which are part of the white blood cells and thus part of the body’s immune system. The lymph nodes swell and the body temperature rises to a slight fever. These first signs often go unnoticed.
  • Asymptomatic phase: The infected velvet paw can live with FIV for years in good health without showing symptoms. Stress, in particular, can lead to the outbreak of feline AIDS.
  • First FIV symptoms: The immune system begins to weaken and fends off bacteria or viruses less effectively. The cat is ailing. For example, a harmless cat flu does not heal for weeks.
  • Cat AIDS breaks out: the immune system is collapsing. The result: Infections spread and become life-threatening. Tumors or neurological disorders can also occur.

Cat Aids Outbreak: What Treatment?

Feline immunodeficiency is incurable. So much for the bad news. Fortunately, there is also a good one and that is: A velvet paw infected with FIV often lives as old as a healthy cat.

Therapy and costs

A cat with FIV does not need therapy without symptoms. However, it is important to inform the respective veterinarian prior to treatment. Your cat’s immune system may be more sensitive to some drugs, such as cortisone or vaccines against standard vaccines. In addition, every infection usually requires more intensive and persistent treatment. In short, your cat’s immune system needs more attention.

The most important therapy is free of charge: an FIV-positive cat benefits from as little stress as possible, which would make its immune system vulnerable. High-quality food with a lot of protein, adapted to the needs of a carnivore, also protects your velvet paw against the virus.

Once feline AIDS has broken out, your vet can treat secondary symptoms such as tumors or more severe infections for a while. The possible costs are very different depending on the treatment. For example, your vet may recommend antiviral chemotherapy drugs or interferon. You can often extend your cat’s life with these modern medications.


Homeopathic remedies cannot stop an outbreak of feline AIDS. Many cat owners want to strengthen the immune system of a sick cat with homeopathic remedies or additional vitamins. Consult your veterinarian about this. After all, FIV is mainly located in the immune cells of the affected velvet paw. Strengthening these with medication or naturopathic means can therefore be counterproductive.

Euthanasia with cat aids

Euthanasia alone is not an issue with a positive FIV test. After all, despite the virus, in most cases, the cat can enjoy a long life full of purring moments. However, if the animal is in the terminal stage, you should make your animal companion as comfortable as possible for the last few weeks. Your vet will help give your companion a pain-free time before saying goodbye.

Possible: long life despite cat AIDS

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Furry noses with FIV can live with the virus for many years and often reach old age. Above all, indoor cats or animals with safe access and few stressful conflicts have the chance of a long life. Only when cat AIDS breaks outdoes the virus become life-threatening.