Feline immunodeficiency virus, or cat FIV, is a retrovirus infection. The virus is often referred to as cat HIV or cat AIDS because it has a similar effect on felines. FIV-positive cats may have the virus in their system for years before showing signs of illness.
The virus works by killing or damaging cells in a cat’s immune system, often targeting white blood cells. The ongoing damage of FIV in cats eventually leads to a weakening of the immune system. Once that happens, cats with FIV can become vulnerable to secondary infections.
People often think that FIV and the feline leukemia virus are the same illnesses because they can cause similar symptoms in cats. While both derive from the retrovirus family, they are different diseases.
What Are the Symptoms of Cat FIV?
Because the cat FIV virus can move slowly in a cat’s system, your cat may go on for years without exhibiting any noticeable symptoms. Once a cat starts showing signs of illness, the disease can cause bouts of illness followed by long periods of apparent good health.
It is a good idea to take your cat in for a vet exam if they start showing any of the following FIV symptoms:
- Poor coat condition, dishevelled coat
- Fever that keeps coming back
- Discharge from eyes and nose
- Anaemia and weight loss
- Lack of appetite
- Inflammation in the mouth and gums
- Chronic or recurrent infections in the eyes, skin, upper respiratory tract, or bladder
- Constant diarrhoea
- Persistent eye problems
- Behavioural changes
- Signs of neurological disorders
- Frequent urination or straining to Urinate
Symptoms of FIV in cats can also include slow and steady weight loss. Many felines infected with the illness end up developing some form of cancer or blood disease.