As the days get longer & warmer your cat will be eager to get outdoors again, but there is something you should be aware of before you open the door!
What is feline AIDS?
Feline AIDS is caused by infection with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). FIV causes a potentially fatal viral disease that interferes with the immune system of a cat.
The virus lives in the blood of the infected cat & is carried in its system throughout its life. Healthy cats contract the infection through being bitten by an FIV positive cat.
Cats infected with FIV may remain healthy for a number of years. While some infected cats show no sign of disease, others may display symptoms such as:
- Loss of appetite
- Swollen lymph nodes
As the disease progresses, symptoms may occur such as:
- Weight loss
- Eye lesions
- Sores in & around the mouth
- Poor coat
- Chronic infections – Such as Urinary tract infections.
Eventually the immune system becomes too weak to fight off other infections or diseases.
How is the infection contracted?
FIV is spread from cat to cat primarily through bite wounds; the virus is shed in high levels through saliva. Outdoor cats are at a higher risk for contracting the disease. The spread of FIV through watering bowls or grooming is unlikely. Although rare it is possible for a mother to pass the infection onto her unborn foetus.
How common is FIV in Australia?
Australia has one of the highest rates of FIV in the world. It is reported that between 20-32% of cats in Australia test positive to the disease – This is only includes cats that are taken to the vet, this doesn’t include all the stray cats that are walking around your neighbourhood. Outdoor cats are at the highest risk of the disease.
What can you do to prevent feline AIDS?
There is no treatment or cure for an FIV infected cat. However a vaccine is available that can aid in the prevention of infection with FIV. Talk with Dr Nicholls or one of the staff about the best vaccination program for your cat. The Vaccination program includes for those cats at 8 weeks of age & older require 3 x FIV vaccines at an interval of 2-4 weeks, and then it is an annual vaccination along with the yearly F3 vaccination.
Along with the vaccination program other health management measures may include:
- Limiting the exposure of indoor cats to outdoor cats.
- Having a new cat tested prior to joining the household
- Build or have a cat enclosure built in your back yard so your cat can enjoy the spring weather without the chance of being bitten by another cat.
Food for thought…
The average life expectancy for a fully indoor cat
is 16 years.
The average life expectancy for an indoor/outdoor cat
(including the cats that are killed on the roads) is 9 MONTHS!
We understand that owners feel guilty or think it’s cruel to keep cats indoors permanently but with plenty of toys, scratching posts & a window to look out your cat can live a very safe, happy & long life indoors, just like Dr Nicholls’ cat Schnooks!
If you are still wanting to allow your cat access to the outdoors we would recommend getting them vaccinated against FIV to prevent contracting the infection from another infected cat & to prevent spreading the disease to other cats. If you live on a busy street or have neighbours who don’t want your cat to pop over the fence for a visit we would recommend you look into getting a cat enclosure built, these can be built to allow the cat to go from indoors to outdoors through a cat flap into a safe & fun enclosure for them to enjoy some sun. A cat enclosure will also save our native wildlife from being attacked by a cat that is roaming around the neighbourhood.
Please ask our staff if you would like some information on Cat enclosures or FIV.