This page: The basic facts you need to know about the FIV virus are as much about what it isn't than what it is. Get the basics straight by reading this page.

Basic facts about FIV


FIV is a fairly common cat virus.


FIV was only identified in 1986 (although it had probably been around for hundreds of years before that)

Because it has only been known about for around 30 years, we are still learning about it.

When it was first identified, there were lots of studies carried out which formed the basis of understanding of the virus from the start.

It is only in the last 20 years or so, when more and more FIV cats have been allowed to live their normal lives, that we are learning that the original studies gave a false impression.

Today's 'facts' should be based on the real-life experience, rather than those early studies, but therein lies the problem, most real-life experience is not documented, and is therefore not available for the official bodies to benefit from, so much that one reads today is still based on those early studies.

So what do we really know?

FIV attaches itself to some cells which are part of the immune system (see how FIV works for more details).

The virus is very slow acting, so the time taken for there to be sufficient damage to the immune system to actually affect the health of the cat is many years.

Most cats with FIV maintain strong immune systems for many years, often all their lives.

Most FIV cats live normal length of lives if properly cared for.

The virus only affects cats, and cannot be passed to other species, either animal or human.

The virus has only been shown to be transmitted via a bite.

In the last 20 years there is no evidence of transmission via sharing food bowls or mutual grooming. (see FIV transmission for more details)  


As was mentioned on the introduction page, it is easier to specify what FIV is NOT - hence:

1     FIV is not in itself a life-threatening disease
2     FIV does not 'destroy' the immune system
3     FIV is not 'Cat AIDS'
4     FIV is not contagious
5     FIV does not necessarily shorten life expectancy.
6     FIV cats do not have to be segregated
7     FIV cannot be transferred to other species (animal or human)


<back to top>