FIV (cataid)

The letters FIV stand for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. It is the virus that causes cat aids, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome. The virus affects the immune system of the cat, making it more sensitive to all kinds of infections. Eventually the cat dies to the consequences of this. No treatment is possible, only the symptoms can be controlled.

Although FIV has major similarities with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS in humans, FIV is not contagious to humans. The virus is animal-specific FIV, however, is species-specific, so it is only contagious for cats.

A cat infected with FIV never loses the virus. FIV nestles itself in the genetic material (DNA). In addition, it is a ‘lentivirus’, a slow virus. This means that it can take a long time before an infected cat actually becomes ill. In the meantime, the cat is of course a danger to other cats

Infection with FIV

Infection mainly occurs through direct transmission of the virus through bite wounds (saliva). This means that especially (uncastrated) males are at risk because they exhibit more territorial aggression. Biting the neck at the cover can also cause transmission of the virus. Especially in catteries this is the way of transfer. In addition, kittens can in principle be infected via the placenta and breast milk, but this happens (almost) only if the mother is infected while she is pregnant or lactating.

FIV – the disease course

The disease progresses in 5 stages.

In phase 1, the acute phase, slight symptoms may occur after about 4 weeks after infection. This is not necessary. What can be observed are fever, swollen lymph nodes, diarrhea, skin or intestinal infection. This phase can take up to 4 months.

In phase 2, the asymptomatic phase, the cat shows no symptoms of disease. This period can take a number of years, sometimes even longer than 5 years.

In phase 3, vague complaints are seen: recurrent fever, eye inflammation, loss of appetite, weight loss, anemia, swelling of the lymph nodes. In itself no serious complaints, so that not every owner will go to the vet.

Phase 4,the AIDS-related complex, is the stage where most cats get more chronic complaints, such as swollen lymph nodes, sneezing, gum disease, eye inflammation, weight loss, diarrhea, anemia, exhaustion, skin conditions, inflammation of the airways. These symptoms become worse over a period of a few months to years.

Phase 5 is the AIDS stage. The defense no longer functions. There are now developing mouth, nose, eye, skin and intestinal infections, pneumonia, anemia and fever. The cat is losing a lot of weight. Sometimes you also see neurological symptoms. Sometimes Less common symptoms are seen at this stage are dementia, rolling movements of the head, uncleanliness, hiding and aggressive neurological symptoms. These last symptoms are seen more often nowadays. The animals at this stage have a prognosis of a few months.

Risk groups

When cats are not sterilized or castrated and are free to go and stand where they want, they run a greater risk. Tomcats will fight, cats will cover themselves. Breeders are very alert to their breeding animals and a good breeder will certainly have taken the trouble to test the animals before they are used in breeding. Testing, castration and sterilization minimize contamination.

FIV diagnosis and incubation time

The FIV diagnosis can be made by means of a rapid test. This test detects antibodies against FIV in the blood. These antibodies form 3-4 weeks after the infection. The first three months of an infection can have a negative FIV test. In this rapid test, it can be assumed that a negative result is generally reliable. If the result is positive, it is advisable to send the blood again to a specialized laboratory for confirmation. The rapid test is approximately 98% reliable (per 100 healthy, uncontaminated animals, 1-2 can be incorrectly designated as positive). If the result of the laboratory is also positive, this means that the cat is infected and will be a lifelong carrier of the FIV.


The risk of infection can be reduced by castrating a male, as a result of which there is less territory behavior and the risk of fights (biting) is less. The risk of infection is smallest in cats that are kept indoors. Cats that live in a group, get along well and therefore do not fight much, have little chance of infection.

Test results are available for inspection.