The feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), also called cat AIDS, was discovered in 1986. It is genetically, morphologically, functionally and pathologically similar to HIV or human AIDS. It is transmitted only between felines by saliva or by sexual intercourse.
There is no possibility of transmission of the cat to humans or other animal species.
Which Cats Are Most Prone to FIV?
Infection is rare in cats living in apartments and not in contact with other cats, whereas it is common in stray cats (about 15% of street cats are virus carriers).
The virus is very fragile in the external environment: it survives a few tens of minutes maximum. Contamination of places (by objects, by the ground) is almost impossible, especially if there is serious disinfection after each cat.
How does FIV cause disease?
Indirectly mortal. Under stress, illness or no reason, the virus “wakes up”. It multiplies and destroys white blood cells, necessary to the cat’s defense against diseases. Therefore, there is a decrease in immune defenses which makes the cat highly susceptible to viruses, even those that are not very dangerous for non-FIV-infected cats.
When a cat is affected by FIV, it often develops, especially in the terminal phase, blood cancers (such as leukemias).
What Are the Symptoms of FIV?
The cat is very often affected by so-called “opportunistic” diseases: these are diseases that take advantage of the weakening of the animal to develop. It can also develop so-called “classic” cat diseases, so it is more severely affected than a negative cat for FIV.
The cat can present a wide variety of diseases that can affect for example the respiratory tract, mouth, intestines, urinary tract… It can include fever, emaciation, infections, chronic diarrhea, cutaneous abscess, nervous disorders, behavioral disorders.
FIV has a viral origin. It is transmitted between cats by saliva or sex.
Screening can be done at any veterinarian. It is exceedingly simple to perform. Just take two drops of blood from the cat and place them in a tester. The result is available within ten minutes.
How to protect me from this disease when buying my Bengal?
Unfortunately, there is no vaccine against FIV, unlike FeLV (feline leukemia). The only possible prevention is to avoid any contact between healthy and sick cats.
For this, a breeder must avoid any contact of his breeders with outdoor cats. He must also request a recent screening test on any new entrant in his breeding. It is also recommended to sterilize the cats (male or female) removed from its breeding program to avoid fights (and therefore bites) and venereal transmission of the virus.
It is therefore above all a question of trust between your breeder and you, on its implementation of these principles.