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Cats and feline immunodeficiency virus

Q: I adopted a sweet cat named Butch who tested positive for FIV, the feline immunodeficiency virus. The shelter said I shouldn’t be overly concerned because most cats like Butch do well. How can I keep him healthy? How long can I expect him to live?

A: Multiple studies have shown that most FIV-positive cats that receive good care may live as long as uninfected cats. However, a recent study found that FIV-infected cats with low red blood cell counts don’t live as long as infected cats with normal red blood cell counts.

Since FIV weakens the immune system, keep Butch indoors so he’s less likely to contract diseases and parasites—and spread FIV. Feed a good quality commercial cat food, not a raw diet which may contain harmful bacteria.

Keep Butch’s vaccines current, and apply a monthly dewormer such as Revolution or Advantage Multi to prevent fleas, heartworms and the intestinal parasites roundworms and hookworms, any one of which would be hard on his body.

I applaud you for adopting a cat with a medical condition and hope you and Butch enjoy many wonderful years together.

Editor’s Note: After taking in a stray kitten, Dr. Lee advises new cat parents to have the kitten tested for feline leukemia and the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at

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