Q: I’d like information on feline AIDS. I know it is contracted by bodily fluids, from cat to cat. Can people get it from a cat, too? Can a cat get it if another cat has been in my house that later is positive, although there has been no contact? Could it be in the carpet, etc.?
A: Here are answers to your questions on the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV):
• FIV is spread from cat to cat primarily by bite wounds. Casual contact, i.e. sharing food bowls, water bowls, litterboxes, mutual grooming, etc. is not believed to be risky for transmission.
• FIV is species-specific; it affects cats only. Humans cannot contract the virus from an infected cat.
• FIV cannot survive outside the body, in the carpet, etc. If an FIV positive cat has been in your apartment in the past, it poses absolutely no risk to any other cat that enters your apartment.
• Outdoor cats who come into contact with other cats are at risk for contracting FIV. Free-roaming intact male cats are at the highest risk, as they are the most likely to get into territorial spats with other cats.
• A vaccine is now available to protect cats against FIV. This vaccine confers good immunity, however, the vaccine will induce antibodies in the vaccinated cat. When a FIV test is run in the future, the cat will test positive, because the test detects antibodies in the bloodstream. If a vaccinated cat is tested for FIV and tests positive, there is no way to tell whether the antibodies that are detected are those that were induced by the vaccine, or by an actual FIV infection. (Actually, a test to distinguish between the two types of antibodies has been developed, but it is not widely available.)