Caring for a cat with FIV can be very rewarding. My cat Emma has FIV. She is five years old and doing incredibly well. Cats with FIV can live happy, healthy lives. They may not live as long as cats that are not infected but I believe it’s all about quality not quantity.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is a disease that is exclusive to cats. Humans cannot contract it. It can only be spread from cat to cat. It is the feline equivalent of HIV. Their immune system is compromised which makes them very susceptible to illness. It also increases their risk for cancer. Transmission is mainly through bite wounds resulting from a cat fight. It can, however, be spread from an infected mother to her kittens.
FIV is diagnosed by a blood test done by a veterinarian. Some of the symptoms of FIV are weight loss, fever, poor appetite, diarrhea, inflammation of the eyes or mouth, sneezing, wounds that won’t heal, unhealthy looking fur, hair loss, red areas on the skin and discharge from the eyes or nose. Upper respiratory infections are very common in cats with FIV.
It is important to keep a cat with FIV indoors exclusively. This is the only way to keep them healthy. Their immune systems are fragile. They are susceptible to so many illnesses and will not be able to maintain health in an outside environment. Keeping them inside is also to protect other cats from catching the disease and spreading it. It is important to provide an environment that is as stress free as possible. Stress is very bad for an animal with a compromised immune system.
Maintaining a routine is another key factor. It has a dual purpose. Animals like routine and consistency. It will greatly reduce the stress level of your cat if it has an established routine. It also gives you the opportunity to notice changes in your cat’s behavior almost immediately.
One thing that I have learned over my many years of working with animals and caring for my own is: If you think something is not quite right with your animal, don’t disregard it, because you are probably right. You see them every day and you instinctively know when something is off even if you can’t put your finger on it.
I feed Emma a high protein, fish based, wet food twice a day. A good quality diet is important to maintain their health. She has access to dry food as well. Because she has a feeding schedule, she comes to the bowl to wait for her food. This gives me the chance to give her a quick physical check twice daily. I also get to observe her eating habits and will know immediately if her appetite is off. Loss of appetite is a symptom of FIV.
I scoop her litter box twice a day as well. This is obviously for cleanliness but it serves another purpose. It gives me the opportunity to see any changes in her bowel movements and bladder habits immediately. Diarrhea is a symptom of FIV and it can cause dehydration fairly quickly.
One of the first signs of a problem with Emma is the appearance of a red area on her bottom lip or left front paw. I check these areas twice every day. As soon as one appears, we go to the vet and she goes on antibiotics immediately.
Every cat is different and that is why it is so important to observe them and figure out what their first signs of a problem are. Of course, that can also change at any time as their disease progresses or with age, but generally your cat will have some sort of sign when things are starting to go wrong.
The key to success when caring for a cat with FIV is early intervention. I can’t stress this enough. When they get sick, it happens really fast.
I had one occasion, when Emma was a kitten, where she seemed fine but sneezed once in the morning. She had eaten well, her eyes and nose were clear and everything seemed okay except for the one sneeze. A few hours later she was feverish and by early afternoon she was lethargic and in trouble. This is why I put so much emphasis on the importance of routine and observation. Thank goodness my veterinarian is close and really awesome. All I have to do is call the office and they will see her immediately.
I am, by no means, suggesting that you need to turn into a nervous and neurotic mess. Just be alert, aware and prepared. Have a good relationship with your vet. Plan in advance how you are going to respond to any episodes and understand that time is of the utmost importance. Then relax and enjoy the company of your very special companion.
Emma was very close to dead when I found her. The veterinarian told me that she would probably have only lasted another day and a half. The first year of her life was very dicey. She had recurring upper respiratory infections. She even had developmental delays due to the severity of her illness. Fortunately, she finally caught up after she got better. She is now a fully developed and very intelligent cat. Her condition has been stable for over four years now.
It is important to realize that, with a cat with FIV, the balance is delicate. They can go along great for a long time and then all of a sudden they’re really sick and can’t bounce back. You have a tough decision to make and it seems to have come out of nowhere. Such is the nature of the beast. You should go into it knowing that that’s how it generally works.
However, it is definitely worth it and the cats really appreciate the time they have. As you can see in the picture below, they can have wonderful, fulfilling lives and even a best friend to share it with. Emma is on the left and her best friend Bandit is on the right. This is how you find them most of the time. I believe that their relationship is the main reason Emma has done so well.
Cats are so easy to please when it comes to toys. They will play with the simplest of things. Who hasn’t brought home toys only to find the cat playing with the bag they came in? Occasionally, I make my own toys. It can be done very cheaply. I save my material scraps if I’m sewing other things. If not, then I like to buy the individual fat quarters for $0.99 at Walmart. I use cotton balls for stuffing and add a little catnip. The cotton balls were $1.00 for a bag of 200 and the catnip was $1.25 for the bag.
With the supplies pictured above and a few piece of string for the mouse tails, I was able to make 42 toys. Each quarter made fourteen decent sized toys. That’s not too bad for $5.25. Obviously, how many you get will depend on the size of the toys you make.
I cut the material to the size I want, use a marker to outline the shape and cut it out. Remember to draw the shape about half a size larger than the size toy you actually want. Because they are fairly small, I just hand sew them instead of using my machine.