Tuesday 15 September 2020

Can I get Aids from my cat?

I don't think this is a very serious question today because people normally know that you can't get Aids from your cat because they are a different species of virus and the feline Aids virus is not transmittable to people i.e. it is not a zoonotic. Having got that out of the way, in the early part of the 1990s, as I understand it, there was a scare concerning feline Aids which led to the needless killing of a large number of healthy household cats.

Photo: Richmond SPCA

At that time the disease was new to people and some believed that if a cat got feline Aids (feline immunodeficiency virus-FIV) they could transmit it to their human caregiver. Apparently when newspapers in California reported that some domestic cats had been identified as carrying the Aids virus many cat owners panicked and had their cat euthanised. They feared that if their cat scratched them they'd get it. Veterinarians and cat sanctuaries were flooded with requests to have their cats destroyed or to have them rehomed. In every case the fears were unfounded. Panic: a symptom of human nature.

FIV-positive cats can live good and enjoyable lives

Nowadays people are far more knowledgeable about FIV. The next important point to make about this disease is that cats can live very good and enjoyable lives even if they have it. There are some websites dedicated to information on this subject. The disease is only contagious to other cats and it is difficult to transmit. With few exceptions, the disease is transmitted through a cat bite as the virus is present in the cat's saliva. On rare occasions offspring can get the virus from their mother.

You should never euthanise a cat infected with FIV unless the disease has made them very ill and it would be humane to euthanise the cat for chronic health issues. Your veterinarian will advise on that.

Cats infected with FIV normally appear to be completely okay. FIV cats are very adoptable and as mentioned there are websites on this subject. Some very kind people do adopt them and give them pleasant lives.

Cats with the virus are called FIV-positive. They might show no signs of illness and it may be years before clinical signs are evident if at all.

FIV-positive cats can share their lives with dog safety. As I said, this is not a zoonotic disease and therefore it can't be transmitted between different species and therefore it can't be transmitted to a dog from a cat.

FIV-positive cats can develop secondary infections and it is these infections that might be life-threatening. They can also develop various forms of cancer, kidney failure, blood diseases which may threaten their lives.

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