Outdoor Kitties Beware- FIV/FeLV

William white face

That cat’s encroaching on my turf again.  He’s giving me that evil eye, I know what he’s up to.  He thinks he can just come into my yard and mark my tree or poop in my flower garden and get away with it!  The hairs rise on the back of my neck, I let out a hiss and growl, but he persists.  I lunge to the left and swat to the right, I feel the pain as he sinks his teeth into my arm, I retaliate with a bite to his cheek.  Once the brawl ends, I limp home to clean my wounds.The next morning I slowly wake, my body still aching, my wounds are swollen and painful.  Mom takes me to the vet where the doctor tends to my wounds, administers some antibiotics, and takes a blood sample to test for disease.  While I lay there curled upon the exam table, I hear the vet tell mom that I have contracted the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) or “kitty AIDS.”  What? How could this happen? I thought I was vaccinated?  How long do I have to live?

It’s been 2 years since that dreadful night, and I’ve been steadily growing ill and very frail.  The doctor tells mom that my FIV has turned into full blown AIDS, I don’t have much time left on this earth.  As mom tearfully struggles to decide if it’s time to end my suffering, I can’t help but wonder if they would have let me go outside if they knew it could lead to this.

Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and FIV are the two most deadly viruses spread among cats that go outdoors.  These viruses are shed in the saliva of infected cats and spread through various means.  FeLV is typically thought of as the “friendly cat” disease.  It is typically spread when cats co-groom each other and share food or water dishes.  FIV is called the “fighting cat” disease, as it is typically spread through bite wounds.  These diseases are not transmissible to humans, however they do cause disease in cats that is usually fatal.

There are many ways to help minimize the risk of your cat contracting these viruses.  Cats that are known to be infected with FeLV or FIV should never be allowed outside as they will continue to spread the virus to other unsuspecting cats.  If you own a cat that goes outside, please talk to your veterinarian about ways to keep your cat protected in the future.

Until next time,

Harry & Eric Brooks, DVM

Stow Kent Animal Hospital

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For more information about FeLV and FIV, check out the following links to Cornell University’s feline health center:

http://www.vet.cornell.edu/fhc/brochures/fiv.html

http://www.vet.cornell.edu/fhc/brochures/felv.html

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