Adopting FIV cats  

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (known as FIV) most definitely does not mean a death sentence and my two boys are living proof of how strong these special cats can be.

3 years ago I had never even heard of FIV let alone considered adopting a cat with it however after deciding we wanted to rescue a cat and visiting our local rescue centres in the North West of England we were quickly made aware that as we lived in a second floor apartment and we wanted an indoor cat our options were somewhat limited. We were then introduced to Doug; a very large but timid tom with one too many war wounds and half and ear missing who just melted our hearts. But Doug had FIV. Before rushing into the adoption we went away to research the illness to see whether this was something we were capable of taking on both financially and emotionally. There are actually quite a number of websites and forums from fellow FIV owners who I found extremely helpful and began to see that despite the stigma it was definitely worth taking a punt on this (not so) little fellow and giving him a shot at a loving family life. But what is the reality? Well it can’t be all bad as three months later we ended up adopting another FIV boy called Max.

FIV can only be passed on to other cats (not humans or other species!) through biting/fighting and this is why un-neutered tom cats are most at risk. This leads to another issue around the importance of desexing! The disease doesn’t or is unlikely to show any symptoms but does act to weaken their immune symptoms making it easier to pick up secondary infections such as cat flu.

People tend to think that an FIV cat means that they will need constant vet treatment but this in my experience couldn’t be further from the truth. Doug is now 6 and Max is now 8 and they have only been a handful of times between them. The main thing is that if they do get anything is not to “wait and see” but to act more quickly, however surely if you love and care for any animal (with or without FIV) you would get this checked out? Keep your cats indoors and this will minimise their risk of exposure to most things anyway.

  Doug.           Max.          

I Doug and Max successfully made the 10,000 mile trip from Manchester to Melbourne at the end of 2011 and have never looked back. They looked totally unfazed upon arrival after their 22 hour flight and coped surprisingly well in quarantine for 30 days where they had their own private area in isolation – not bad for cats who others might have written off or ignored! They now are enjoying lapping up the sunshine and have just welcomed their new Australian brother Erick who has been vaccinated against FIV (something which is pretty common here in Oz as the FIV problem was even worse than the UK) and can co-exist with them happily and safely.

Please do not overlook a beautiful cat just because it might have FIV – of course do your research and keep informed to be the best cat parent you can but their condition should merely be an aside. Our lives have been changed for the better by having Doug and Max in our family and I like to think that we have helped to give them a second chance at life!


1. Get a good vet who understands the disease – you would be surprised how many vets I have had to educate on the issue but when you get a good one, keep hold of them even if it means travelling.

2. Insurance – our boys have always been insured and unless the claim can be proven to be linked to be as a result of the disease they will pay out!

3. Holidaying – many catteries we encountered where we lived in the UK equally didn’t understand FIV and a lot turned us away however we used a pet sitting service which actually worked out to be a similar price and meant that it took away the distress of being away from home. If you do live in an area with more informed cattery owners ensure they operate an isolation area – this is for your cats benefit not for their other guests!

4. Often FIV cats have been strays or at least had lots of access to the outside (hence catching the disease) so have lots of toys to keep them occupied in their new indoor life or even consider an outdoor run or even better get them another FIV companion!

  Copyright information   Terms & Conditions
All content (unless otherwise in indicated) is © 2011/2012 St. Francis Hospice for Cats This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Creative Commons Licence
We make every effort to ensure that our information is accurate and up to date. However if you find something on the St. Francis Hospice web site that is incorrect or misleading please let us know. Our contact details can be found here. All proceeds from donations and profits from merchandise go to the Hospice.
  registered charity no. 1062053
Site design and build // Michael Statham.