It’s Ignorance or Maybe Prejudice, People Can’t Get FIV from Cats


CNN hosted an Equality Town Hall, and Democratic candidates spokes about people who even today demonstrate  fearful, ignorance and prejudice against those infected with HIV and/or AIDS. Coincidentally, on the same day as this CNN event, I heard about instances of groomers allegedly refusing to groom and even merely to do a nail trims on cats with FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus).

Groomers who won’t attend to cats with FIV are vastly ignorant. I’m unsure if this decision not to groom these cats are somehow based on misdirected hate or individuals who are immensely misinformed regarding FIV.

By far, cats most often infected with FIV are outdoor male cats. That is because FIV is generally transmitted to others via bite wounds. Very rarely, cats can get FIV in-utero. Casual contact transmission is exceedingly rare, and hardly ever occurs. FIV is never transmitted from infected cats to people (or dogs).

People cannot get FIV from their cat. And to think otherwise is indeed plain ignorant.

What is true is that FIV, a lentivirus, is similar to HIV (the human immunodeficiency virus) and related to human AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome), as in some ways the virus acts similarly.

Shelter cat with FIV

The fact is that FIV is a species-specific virus that infects only felines (not canines). Again, any groomers or for anyone else fearful of getting FIV – there is zero evidence that FIV can infect or cause disease in humans. To be honest, I am surprised there are still people who think this.

An argument that cats will infect one another at a grooming facility is also ignorant. There’s no reason for more than one cat at a grooming facility to ever directly interact with a cat owned by another person at any grooming facility. All cats who have been groomed and/or who have nail trims should then be returned to the carriers waiting for pick up, or in holding kennels. Cats who don’t know one another, of course, should never be engaging. This virus is unlike, say the dog flu, which is transmitted through the air.

Adoption of FIV Cats

Shelters have been routinely adopting FIV positive cats for many years, even into homes with other cats. As long as the cats are spay/neutered and get generally get along there is only a minuscule chance to transmission – and minuscule is even over-stating. These neutered male cats with FIV (most cats with FIV are males who once fought over territory outside) tend to be couch potato lovers, not any longer fighters, even among other cats.

When shelters adopt FIV positive with common sense – for example not adopting FIV positive cats into homes with too many cats. The concern there isn’t only about too many cats and too few resources forcing cats to feel too crowded and may more likely fight, it’s more about stress. We know fear, anxiety and stress affect a cats’ immune systems. And FIV is an immune disease.

A significant percent of cats with FIV only have mild problems, many have no further medical issues despite FIV. In fact, with twice a year veterinary visits (which all cats would benefit by), FIV positive cats can arguably live a healthier and longer life than some others without FIV. That’s because of the proactive veterinary care.

However, sometimes even with the best of care, some FIV cats may be more likely to develop the following:

  • Stomatitis (inflammation of the mouth, which may necessitate removal of all teeth)
  • Cancers (especially lymphosarcoma)
  • Ocular (eye) inflammation
  • Anemia and leukopenia (low white blood cell counts)
  • Kidney failure (which so frequently occurs in older cats, it’s unknown if this truly happens more often or more quickly among those affected by FIV).
  • Ideopathic feline lower urinary tract disease (there are other factors which may cause this, including a lack of an enriched environment, it’s unknow that for sure this more often occurs with cats infected with FIV).
  • Chronic gastrointestinal problems
  • Chronic skin disorders
  • Seizures

There is no cure for FIV, but various illnesses thought to be caused by FIV may be treated.