This page: New to the subject of FIV? You probably need some reassurance backed up by some common sense information about FIV. This is the right place
New to FIV?
If you are new to the subject of FIV, you are probably in need of some reassurance backed up by some common sense information about FIV. You are in the right place.
FIV is nowhere near as bad as most will let you believe - it won't make your cat ill all the time, it won't make it die, in fact, often, without being tested, you would not know your cat had anything particular wrong with it.
Perhaps your cat has just been diagnosed as FIV-positive. This may be because your cat is not well and, having tested positive for the virus, your vet is quite likely to blame any illness on the FIV, which has probably made you quite worried about it - please don't be, in reality it is unlikely that the illness has anything to do with the FIV.
Most vets have very little real experience of FIV, and rely for their information on some very old and questionable scientific studies, and many are quick to jump to the wrong conclusions. Things have moved on a lot since those early studies and, in the last twenty years or so, more FIV cats have been allowed to live their natural lives - we have learnt so much from that - sadly many vets are unaware of such experience and are therefore about twenty years out of date in their thinking - which is not good for you, or the cats!
Perhaps it would be helpful if we gave you a simple overview of the experience we have, having looked after approaching 100 FIV cats now over the last nearly twenty years.
First thing to know is our FIV cats have had no more illnesses than any other group of rescued cats would have.
Many have lived to ripe old ages, despite having a difficult start in life - Take Cecil, for example, he is now (summer, 2014) looking rather frail, but he came to us as a newly diagnosed FIV, in 2002, aged about 3 or 4. That's twelve years he has been with us, making him about 14 or 15 years old now. Apart from a few bad teeth that needed removal, and one or two minor infections, he has been perfectly healthy until a couple of years ago when he developed an over active thyroid gland. The Hyperthyroidism has nothing to do with his FIV status, and is quite common in many older cats - so Cecil is a good example of what can be expected of an FIV cat - probably not what you have been led to believe by others!
Another example is Captain, who died in 2011, aged about 16. He had been with us since 1997, when he was diagnosed as FIV as a young (about 2 years old) cat in a road accident - he had to have a rear leg amputated, but that didn't stop him hopping round our garden for the next 14 years! He too was basically well all the time, just a few bad teeth and a couple of minor infections which cleared up quickly - just like Cecil!
Also Guy, who came to us in 2004 aged about 5, and is still with us ten years later, now aged about 15. He had no need to have any veterinary treatment at all until a couple of years ago. He now has a problem with his digestion, but that is managed with simple medicines, and hardly a problem after so many years not needing treatment at all. Whether his old cat problem is aggravated by the FIV we don't know, but at his age, anything is possible with or without FIV.
Many cats came to us as middle aged or older cats, but most still lived on healthily for several more years - which is more than most would expect; but ours is real experience, not out of date 'studies'.
We hope you are beginning to get the drift - FIV cats are basically healthy and live good lives; when they get old they can get old cat problems - just like any other cat!
We are not just selecting exceptions, almost all our FIV cats are healthy for most of the time. So please don't be frightened by vets or anyone else who tells you FIVs will be ill - they won't, at least, no more than any other cat, in our experience, and we have looked after a good number, and still do!
So that, hopefully, will help reassure you that your FIV cat won't be any more likely to be ill than any other cat. Any illness he may have, either now or in the future, should be treated just as if he was not FIV.
Okay, you were probably not expecting that, so perhaps we should back up the experience with a little explanation as to just why they won't be ill like many will suggest to you:
Basically, the virus is a very weak version of the same type of virus that affects humans (HIV). But, unlike the human form, because FIV is a very weak version, it is very slow to act. What it does - very slowly (over many years) - is reduce certain cells that are part of the immune system. Now, it is important to understand that the immune system is a very complex and robust system, and it can work very well even if these cells are reduced to a tiny fraction of the number they start with. Because this takes many years to happen, the cat has usually lived a full and healthy life, long before the immuno-supression reaches a level to be a problem.
So you can see that, although scientists (and often vets) will tell you that the virus is damaging the immune system, in reality the speed at which it does so makes it not a problem until many years later - by which time most FIV cats have lived a full and healthy life. Anyone who tells you that FIV 'destroys' the immune system, is simply wrong!
If you look at the rest of our website, you will find more detailed explanations about most aspects of FIV, but you will notice that they all give you a realistic, reasoned and reassuring account, all based on real, hands-on experience of many FIV cats over many years. So please don't be worried by the gloom and doom merchants!
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