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FIV cat magazine article

The following was the article which was placed in AAC cat magazine.


FIV - be safe, not sorry

All cat owners fear the deadly disease FIV for which there is no vaccine or cure. Most cat owners are unaware that even if their cat tests negative for FIV, this is no guarantee that they are 'safe', as the cat could be incubating the disease. In this state, the disease is not detectable by the test, and so cats should be re-tested after 120 days.

Kathleen Pearson of the Veterinary Vouchers charity explained to AAC that many cat owners are unaware of the need for a re-test, after their cats had tested negative. This is because the FIV test detects antibodies to FIV, and these antibodies take up to three months to develop, so the cat can be incubating the disease for this long, before it can be detected by the test.

"We cat owners have been lulled into a false sense of security," she told AAC. "Although a positive result to an FIV test is a useful diagnostic tool, I believe that a single negative result is no use whatsoever in proving that a cat is safe. But we are not being told that a second test is necessary."

The FIV test serves three main purposes:

  • To check whether a cat is virus-free (for example, when introducing a new cat – of unknown FIV status – into a household that is 'clear').
  • For diagnosis of sick cats.
  • For screening breeding cats, on an annual basis, for peace of mind.

If a FIV test proves positive, this is a clear diagnosis. But because of the incubation period, a negative result may not necessary mean that the cat is virus free. If a 'suspect' cat is being introduced into a household which is known to be FIV-free, the newcomer should be isolated until the second test is proved negative.

Also, it should not be assumed that even a household that has been free of FIV for many years is 'safe'. Carriers of FIV can be asymptomatic for several years, and expose other felines to the disease during that time. Therefore even cats in colonies that have never suffered a loss to FIV should be tested twice, after at least a three month interval, before assuming that they are virus free.