In the past, a positive FIV diagnosis for a cat often meant a death sentence. Many shelters would euthanize cats that tested positive for feline immunodeficiency virus, because they were considered unadoptable. However, new research proves that cats with FIV can live long, healthy lives and can even cohabit with FIV-negative cats. Don’t let FIV stop you from adopting a cat that needs a home—here’s what you need to know about living with a cat who has FIV.

What is FIV?

Feline immunodeficiency virus is a disease that attacks a cat’s immune system and makes them vulnerable to other viruses and infections. Eventually, the cat’s immune system breaks down, and ordinary illnesses that other cats recover from quickly could prove deadly. However, a cat with FIV can go for years—and even most of their lifetime—before entering the final stage of the disease, when they become immunocompromised.  

How is FIV transmitted?

In most cases, the virus is passed from cat to cat through deep bite wounds. If the saliva from an infected cat gets into another cat’s bloodstream, that cat could get infected, too. It’s most common in feral cats, so outdoor cats have the highest risk because they are more likely to get into a fight with an infected cat. FIV can sometimes be passed through sexual contact, or from a mother cat to her kittens. 

Can FIV pass to people or other pets?

FIV is NOT a zoonotic disease, which means that it only affects cats. So you don’t have to worry about the disease passing from your cat to you, your family, or your dog. Humans, dogs, and other pets are totally immune! 

Can FIV positive cats live with FIV negative cats?

Yes! It’s actually quite difficult to spread the virus to another cat. Although FIV is transmitted through saliva, the saliva has to get into the bloodstream in order to pass the infection. Normal activities like mutual grooming and sharing water bowls or litter boxes are totally safe. As long as your cats don’t get into fights, they should be fine. And if you do have a concern, the veterinarians at East Valley Animal Hospital are always here to answer your questions. 

What is the treatment for FIV?

There is no way to treat the disease itself, but FIV-positive cats don’t have to die from it. They can live long, healthy lives by avoiding secondary infections. They will need extra care in order to avoid dental infections, foodborne bacteria, and parasites. Keep FIV-positive cats safe indoors, brush their teeth regularly, and never give them any raw food or dairy products.

Vets Who Love Cats in Gilbert, Arizona

Do you have questions about caring for a cat who is living with FIV? The compassionate vets at East Valley Animal Hospital can help your feline friend live a long, happy life. We offer a wide range of preventative, diagnostic, and dental services for cats. To make an appointment for a wellness exam or FIV testing, call 480-892-1577 or send a message to  


Photo by Zeke Tucker on Unsplash used with permission under the Creative Commons license for commercial use 3/9/2022.