Protecting your cattery: important facts about FIV

Wondering if you should still test your cats for the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, aka FIV? Well, the virus is present in feline populations all across Canada (seroprevalence varying depending on the province, as shown on our below). Just because of that, you should never stop testing if you want to decrease the related risk! Knowing your enemies is also the best way to face them, so here are some important facts every breeder should be aware of when it comes to FIV:

- FIV is mainly transmitted through bite wounds: outdoor cats being definitely more at risk, breeding cats should stay in the cattery or not be in contact with individuals having outdoor access.  

- At least in experimental conditions, the virus can also be transmitted to kittens during pregnancy and through the mother’s milk. Even if apparently pretty rare, infection during mating is thought to occur as well. Because of that, if the virus enters a cattery, there is still a risk for propagation.

- The virus has low resistance in the environment and is easily inactivated even by soap only, there is no need for specific disinfectant but, as usual, good hygiene of the cattery is a necessity.

- Best way to protect your facility: every new cat should be tested prior to entering the cattery. The results obtained with the routine test used in veterinary clinics are highly accurate. This test detects antibodies, and most cats will produce them within 60 days of exposure. If dealing with an animal of unknown origin, it is better to redo another test 60 days after the first one to confirm the diagnosis.

- Before entering the cattery, the animals should be kept in quarantine to confirm their health status.

- There is a vaccine available in North America. However it is not recommended to vaccinate breeding cats against FIV. After vaccination these individuals will produce antibodies: it will then not be possible to make the difference between vaccinated and infected individuals… To make things worse, these individuals might stay positive sometimes up to 9 years after the initial vaccination.

- Cats positive to FIV should be spay and neuter to decrease the risk of fights and therefore the risk of transmission. If there is no aggression, the risk of transmission between cats seems to be low but FIV positive individuals should not however be co-housed with other breeding animals.

- FIV infection does not adversely affect life expectancy: no need for euthanasia then, these cats can be relocated in a foster home if needed.


Prevalence of FIV in Canada, from Little et al 2009 (read original paper here)

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