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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 20554
Experience:  I am a small animal veterinarian with a special interest in cats and am happy to discuss any questions you have.
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Hi Dr. B, We recently got two kittens (both fully vaccinated)

Resolved Question:

Hi Dr. B,
We recently got two kittens (both fully vaccinated) but found out that our 14 year old resident cat has tested positive for FIV. He shows no symptoms except for occasional sneezing fits and his eyes can get a bit of discharge, he was found to be positive during routine blood testing due to his age and is otherwise in excellent condition. I'm really worried about the kittens, should we re-home them after getting them tested? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Cat
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 2 years ago.

Hello, I am very sorry to hear about your situation.

First, I would just note that your older lad's sneezing and discharges are not from the FIV. Instead, he likely is also a carrier of one of the cat flu agents (ie herpes, calicivirus) or is just prone to picking up infections because of his FIV immunocompromised status.

Next, if there is any doubt about this result (or if this was checked with an in-practice test), I would note that you could consider having a sample tested by a vet lab. While it is probably a correct result (since it tends to be kittens of FIV+ mothers that have false positive result issues), this would ensure that he is truly positive before you had to make any decisions.

Otherwise, in regards ***** ***** situation, it is a challenging one. The safest choice and therefore the one I must advise you to take would be for the kittens to be rehomed and tested for FIV via PCR (this test looks for genetic material of the virus) or via the in-house tests 2 weeks post-exposure to your lad (since antibodies tested for via the in-house tests can take time to become detectable). If they are clear, then we'd not have any further worry about them.

Further to this and the reason I noted that this was a challenging situation is because unlike the feline leukemia virus, sharing a house with an FIV+ cat isn't always a death sentence for other cats. The reason is because when healthy, an FIV+ cats shed very little virus, so environmental contamination is low. Furthermore our means of exposure is predominately via direct contact (ie any fighting where biting + scratching occurs and saliva/blood are in contact). That said, there are cases where grooming or sharing bowls did pose some risk of infection.

That all said, if a group of FIV positive and negative cats were living in harmony, then we can see situations where the virus isn't spread to the negative cats. Only when we have disharmony (ie fighting, etc), overly close contact, or the FIV+ cat is poorly (and therefore shedding high levels of virus) do we see it spread. So, this is a spanner in the works for a single answer to this situation. Especially since we cannot predict what he will think about the new kittens, how they will act towards one another, and whether they directly engage one another in such a way to spread the virus to the kittens.

So, in this case, rehoming the kittens would be the best and safest option. If you were keen to have another cat with your current one, you could speak to the rescue about FIV+ cats (there are a lot that need homes and they'd not be a risk to your lad or vice versa). And if you did risk keeping the kittens, then you may want to confirm the older lad's status and see if they are all happy to live perhaps with minimal contact (perhaps only with supervision) or in harmony together. But if he shows any signs that he is less then keen about them or they are bothering him, then it'd be best to consider rehoming them to prevent their risking contracting FIV.

I hope this information is helpful.

If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!

All the best,

Dr. B.

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