Should I vaccinate my cat for FIV?

Our question this week was:

Should I vaccinate my cat for FIV?

Bob F. Boston, MA

Answer

Hi – thanks for your email Bob. Your question is a good one and with that is controversial. FIV is a viral infection that attacks the immune system of cats. It is also known as Feline acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (Feline AIDS) and commonly referred to by the letters “F-I-V”.

It is transmitted primarily by bite and scratch wounds and is most common in outdoor intact male cats (that are prone to fight).

It is recommended that all cats be tested before they are vaccinated. The vaccine can cause false positive test results. The incidence of FIV in the cat population is relatively low, but highest in that outdoor intact fighting male population.

This is what I would do. If I had a cat that was outdoor or indoor/outdoor – I’d test him, neuter him (so he is less likely to fight) and vaccinate him. If he is positive, I’d do a second test after he is 6-months old to confirm that he is positive and make him an indoor cat only. This is only fair to other outdoor cats as he can infect them.

If I had an environment where I took a lot of cats in – I’d treat him as an indoor outdoor cat. I’d test, neuter and vaccinate.

If I had a cat that was indoors only with NO exposure to other cats, I wouldn’t vaccinate him for FIV.

An article that might be helpful to you is Feline Immunodeficiency Virus.

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra

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