Cat AIDS results from infection with the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). FIV suppresses the immune system of infected cats. Like a human infected with HIV, a cat infected with FIV shows no signs for years and then falls foul of every passing parasite and infection.
Australia’s cats have one of the highest rates of FIV infection in the world. Because the virus is spread by biting, outdoor cats are more likely to be infected. In a Sydney survey 25% of a feral cat colony were infected with FIV. In pet male cats allowed outside the prevalence was 12%.
Fortunately an FIV vaccine is available in Australia. Kittens under 6 months who go outdoors are vaccinated at their kitten checks.
We can run a test for the virus at the Surgery for older cats before we vaccinate them. Cats who go outdoors, especially if they fight, should be tested and vaccinated.
Cats with FIV eventually become ill with diseases like trench mouth, demodex, toxoplasmosis, cryptococcosus, kidney disease, fitting and cancer. Although we treat each disease as it comes up, eventually the infected cat dies at a much younger age than its peers.
Treatment of the FIV infection itself is very difficult as cats are very susceptible to the side-effects of many of the drugs used to treat HIV. Feline interferon shows some promise but is very expensive.