Adopters of FIV positive cats extol the joys of sharing their homes with these fantastic felines
In July 2016 when Emily Boyle and her fiancé went to the Richmond SPCA to look for a kitten, they fell in love with two 19-month-old siblings. “We kept going back to them because they were so cute,” said Boyle. “But a sign said they were FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) positive, and at first we thought that they were going to be sick, and that they would have a shortened life expectancy and lots of doctor’s bills.”
After being reassured by Richmond SPCA staff that many cats can live normal, symptom-free lives with the diagnosis, and usually only require one additional yearly check that includes a blood test, they adopted Tobi and Pippi (formerly Juno and Jupiter). A year and a half later, both cats are thriving and living healthy, happy lives.
In the United States, 3 to 4 percent of cats test positive for FIV. The virus is similar to human immunodeficiency virus in that it weakens the immune system; however, an infected cat can live without symptoms for many years. Veterinarians utilize tests that detect the presence of FIV antibodies in a cat’s blood. While it is not transferable to humans or other animal species, FIV positive cats should be kept away from other cats to reduce the chances of spreading the disease.
Lacy Hatton said it was a “no-brainer” when they adopted a 5-year-old FIV positive cat named Callie (formerly Olympia) from the Richmond SPCA in October 2016. “We do not have any other cats in the house (they have 2 dogs). And since she is an indoor cat, we do not have to worry about interaction with other cats,” she said. Like Boyle, the family was initially concerned about lots of vet bills and a sickly cat, but their fears were calmed by the adoption counselors. Callie has remained healthy, with the exception of some non-related allergies. “There are a lot of misconceptions out there,” said Hatton. “It is not at all different than having a cat without FIV. She is just is so wonderful. I cannot imagine her NOT in our lives.”
FIV is unstable in the environment, meaning it can be easily inactivated by common disinfectants, so keeping the environment clean is important. Though risk of cat-to-cat transmission is low, preventing exposure to other cats is the only sure means of preventing disease contraction.
Cody Swartz had already lived with an FIV positive cat when he came to the Richmond SPCA to adopt another one with the same diagnosis. In March 2017, he adopted 3 year old Lupin (formerly Milo). “It is exactly the same as having any other cat,” said Swartz. “The only real challenge is that they have to be separated from other cats, so if you need to leave them when you go on vacation, you cannot just take them anywhere.” Swartz has someone come to his home to care for Lupin if he is away. His vet even kept his companion overnight at the clinic once, in a separate room.
Today Lupin is healthy and happy and has not gotten sick or had any complications since living with Swartz. In fact the only thing Swartz said he needs is a little more exercise to burn off some excess calories.
Hatton adds, “If you have a one-cat only household and keep them indoors, there is no reason not to consider an FIV positive cat.”
FIV+ cats available for adoption
This post was originally published on February 16, 2018. Find more archived blog content from the Richmond SPCA here.
This blog was written by Richmond SPCA volunteer Deborah Rider Allen. She is retired from 25 years as a freelance writer. She is a professional cellist for Northern Neck Symphony and lives in The Fan with her husband Bill and dog Hannah.