Top 5 Reasons why an FIV+ Cat Could Be Your Next Best Friend

by EverydayMiracles

Most shelters kill cats who test positive for FIV, and most adopters pass them up in the shelters that don't. YOU could be the one to save a life!

Many people believe that feline immunodeficiency virus (also known as feline AIDS) is a death sentence for the cats who have been infected with it. For this reason, cats are needlessly put to sleep in animal shelters or live their lives behind bars because the people who might otherwise adopt a pet from a shelter overlook them because of their illness.

I want to share with you my own experience with FIV, FeLV and choosing to adopt a cat from a shelter rather than picking out a free kitten from your local newspaper classifieds. My family has been blessed with two beautiful, affectionate and loving additions to our family thanks to our ability to overcome prejudices. I hope that you can overcome your own prejudices and potentially give one of these amazing cats a shot.

FIV Positive Kitties Make Great Pets!
FIV Positive Kitties Make Great Pets!

A Tale of Two Kitties

Our Amazing FIV+ Friends

In November of 2011, two amazing cats changed my life forever. Before they arrived in my home, I never would be writing this article. I would have been like the thousands of people who would automatically shy away from cats with this illness, if for no other reason than the fact that it sounds so very much like "HIV," a disease we know all too well in our modern times.

It was Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving in the United States. The previous month, my cat Whisper had passed away in my arms, and I was reeling from the experience of his death and still grieving. We'd been out of town for the holiday and when we returned (to make matters worse!) our dog had gone missing. In our efforts to find her, I went looking at the Humane Society website for tips. There, on their front page, they had information about their "Black Friday" sale, in which black dogs and cats (or those who were mostly black) were discounted heavily ($10 for cats and $50 for dogs if I recall correctly). Later that night we discovered that our dog was waiting at Animal Control for us to pick her up. And Friday, we went to the Humane Society to look at black cats in the hopes of finding one we fell in love with.

We were told that the blue corridors were all cats and the yellow were all dogs. We went down through the cat rooms one at a time, and eventually came upon a "free roaming" room, where the cats weren't kept caged and could access windows to see outside all they wanted, but not get outside. It was only ten or so minutes after letting ourselves in that we realized that we were alone. Perturbed, I stood up and checked out the environment a bit more thoroughly. What I discovered had me scrubbing my hands to get the "germs" off of them and ready to exit when the volunteer entered the room. Nothing guilts you more at an animal shelter than a well-meaning volunteer, and we wound up hanging out in the room a bit longer.

The volunteer didn't talk about FIV, but I thought I knew what it was. Mentally I was comparing and relating it to FeLV (the feline leukemia virus). It was during this initial chat that we met Guinevere, a beautiful dilute torbie. We were beginning to fall in love with her, and I kept going back and forth to pick up her card, looking it over, then putting it back, telling myself I couldn't take on a cat who was just going to die. I'd done it with pet rats before and I couldn't do it with a pet cat. There was simply no way I could do it.

She was a "staff favorite," which meant that there was $25 off on her adoption fee of $35. Not a black kitten like we'd come in for, but $10 nonetheless and we were in love. Well, I should say I was in love, because my friend, Michelle, was not convinced of Guinevere. I, on the other hand, had once known a cat with a similar personality and I think she's perfectly amazing. I convinced her, and we went back to put in an application for Guinevere, knowing already that we were adopting a cat with a serious and potentially fatal illness. But, much to our benefit, the shelter had posted a copy of FIV: Catching a Bad Case of Rumors on the door. We knew she wouldn't pass it on to our other three cats and we knew that she would likely live into her teens.

It was taking up to two hours to process applications that night, and the staff suggested that we go back into the free-roaming room to visit with Guinevere. But by the time that we got there, she had wedged herself on top of a cat condo near the ceiling and we couldn't convince her to come down (she's shy, and suffers with depression). So we sat down to spend some time with other cats who don't get much love thanks to those three devastating letters. And that's when we met Quinn.

I was petting him while he sat on a table, but as it got later (and darker) the cats were waking up, and he jumped down off the table. I'd been pleased with him anyway because he's chubby and he's smooth coated and he's absolutely beautiful (look at those pictures!). But when he hopped down on three legs instead of four, I was taken. I added him immediately to the application.

We had to go through a process to adopt the cats. There was an interview process that wasn't necessary for adopters of "normal" cats. We had to talk to a vet and prove that we understood their condition and the care necessary for them. But in the end, we came home with two new additions to our family, adding them to our three cats, two sugar gliders and our Rottweiler.

Adopting these two cats has been an amazing experience and I'm glad that we brought them into our lives. Here are some reasons why you should consider adopting an FIV+ cat from your local shelter.

#5 FIV+ Cats are Goners without Your Help

Most shelters euthanize FIV+ cats. Your adoption may change their minds!

The vast majority of shelters will euthanize a cat like Quinn, pictured to the left. This beautiful cat would have been put to sleep for no other reason than the fact that he had a disability. When he arrived at the Humane Society of Indianapolis, he had a mangled leg,

Quinn is FIV+ and a Tripod!
Quinn is FIV+ and a Tripod!

which had to be amputated. His medical expenses were quite high. But to make things worse for poor Quinn, he was tested positive for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, or FIV, a virus that effects the immune system of cats and which cannot be passed to humans. Thankfully for us, the Humane Society of Indianapolis doesn't automatically euthanize FIV+ cats, giving us the opportunity to bring this handsome and spirited cat into our home.

When you adopt an FIV+ cat, you are sending a signal to the animal shelters that you are willing to adopt cats who test positive for the feline immunodeficiency virus. Not only are you rescuing one cat, but you're letting the shelters know that there may be a value in sparing these lives. These cats have a lot of years left and don't deserve to be killed because of their illness!

#4 Healthy FIV+ Cats have a Normal Life Expectancy

FIV is not, by itself, a death sentence!

When most people think of FIV or FeLV, they think that their cat has been given a death sentence. We are automatically brought to mind of humans with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and the idea that those with AIDS die a slow, painful, and early death. The same is not necessarily true for your cat. In spite of what the acronym might imply, FIV is not the same thing as HIV!

There is no reason not to adopt a cat who has tested positive for feline immunodeficiency virus, provided that you are prepared to take care of the medical needs of your pet, which you should be prepared to do with a normal, healthy pet anyway! There isn't really that much of a difference between your FIV+ cat and a regular kitty who has never been infected.

#3 FIV Cannot be Transferred to Humans

Many people think they can get HIV from their cats. It simply isn't so!

When I tell people that we own two cats who are infected with the FIV virus, I'm often asked, "Isn't that risky?" The first time I heard this, I hesitated, not understanding what they had to mean. After all, were they talking about the cats infecting our other cats, or were they talking about the cats infecting us?

The first few times I was asked, I made the natural assumption that the askers were asking whether or not the cats could infect the other cats. I was always met with a dumb silence when I answered that "yes, they could infect the resident cats, but that it's unlikely." What they really wanted to know was whether or not my cats could give me AIDS.

It's a valid question. HIV is a serious thing, and a scary disease that can currently be managed but not cured. Nobody wants to get it, and we all know to avoid risky behaviors. I can understand the fear that some people have.

But no, you cannot get HIV from an FIV+ cat. They are two different viruses, and the feline version cannot be transferred to non-feline animals, including humans, dogs, horses or other animals.

#2 You'll Make a Rescuer's Day

You should have seen the dancing the day we brought Quinn and Guinevere home!

One thing that we didn't expect when we adopted Quinn and Guinevere, was for the staff at the shelter to dance around the shelter with cries of "It's Guinevere!" and "It's Quinn!" This is the part of the story that still brings tears to my eyes and really makes me weep. Those cats were so well loved by the shelter staff that they celebrated their finding homes in a huge way. Did I mention that Quinn was also a staff favorite?

There is something really special about a disabled animal. I wrote an article some time ago about Cerebellar Hypoplasia. I'm not a vet, but these kitties have captured my heart with their funny ways. The love of an animal is wonderful, but disabled animals are something truly unique! I really believe their appreciation is greater than the appreciation of other animals, especially when we save them.

#1 They Won't Let You Down

An FIV (or FeLV) cat will give a ton of love!

Like any rescued animal, a cat with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus or Feline Leukemia Virus will give a lot of love. He will always know that you rescued him from a shelter and certain death. You will have a dedicated companion. I've never met a cat who purrs more beautifully than our two FIV+ kitties.

If nothing I've said has made an impression, I want you to consider that these are just normal cats with a higher risk of developing a serious illness. They aren't going to die next week (provided they are young and well cared for). They aren't going to make you or your other pets sick (or rather, they aren't likely to make your other cats sick; make sure to read the resources!). They will give you all the love in the world. And you will get the satisfaction of having saved a life.

Bear in mind that a shelter cat with FIV has probably had a lot put into the time that they've spent there. They've been vetted, and cared for, and exercised and loved by the staff. They are often staff favorites because they are such beautiful, loving animals. We gave two of them a shot. So should you.

Donate to help Shelter Cats

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Get More Information about Feline Immunodeficiency Virus

Forarmed is Forewarned!

FIV: Catching a Bad Case of Rumors
The best article on the subject of FIV that I've read, and the one presented to me before we brought our kitties home.

FIV Fact Sheet
A PDF with information about FIV so that you can get yourself informed about what feline immunodeficiency virus is.

The Truth about FIV in Cats
Just a basic fact sheet about Feline Immunodeficiency virus.

Would You Adopt an FIV+ Cat?

I wouldn't have, before I had some of the information above....
Updated: 04/09/2012, EverydayMiracles
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What are Your Perceptions about FIV?

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missyzane on 09/21/2013

I lost my ancient FIV cat just a couple of months ago. He was my spirit guide and close friend for many, many years, and I miss him more than most people could imagine. There are so many cruel myths about FIV cats, but then there are so many cruel myths about cats in general. This is a beautiful article, and I enjoyed reading it. Love to Quinn and Guinevere.

BrendaReeves on 04/08/2012

I'm an animal lover and volunteer for the Kentucky Humane Society as a foster parent. I now have four dogs and two cats. I wish I could adopt them all. I love black cats and black dogs. I think they're beautiful. Having a cat with any kind of disability wouldn't bother me at all.

EverydayMiracles on 04/07/2012

Regardless, there's a *perception* that AIDS causes a lot of suffering and that there are few treatments available. Most people view FIV or FeLV as being a death sentence, but if you keep these cats healthy, they aren't going to simply die of the disease itself. They'll die because of a suppressed immune system, the same as with HIV.

Mladen on 04/07/2012

I have never heard of FIV, I must admit. And I am glad I have learned new information. Now I know that cats with FIV can be as good pets as the "normal" cats.
One from the med student: HIV doesn't mean "those with AIDS die a slow, painful, and early death". People living with HIV infection and/or AIDS live normal life if treated with proper medications, today.

It was interesting reading this article about cats with FIV. And it is noble gesture from you to write about this topic. I am huge cat lover, and I would addopt any cat. :)

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