Open your heart to an FIV+ cat

FIV stands for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. You can spot an FIV+ cat right away. They usually have soft fur, can be cuddly and affectionate, may display charming cattitude, come in all sorts of beautiful colors, patterns, sizes....

Paulie - adoptable! Wait, that sounds just like a regular cat.

Yes, it does.

That's because, in appearance and behavior, cats with FIV are pretty much indistinguishable from non-FIV cats. The only way to know if a cat has been exposed to the virus is by testing for the presence of FIV-antibodies in its blood. Shelley - adoptable!

Indeed, FIV is the kitty equivalent of HIV in humans. But FIV cannot be passed from cat to human (or to non-felines for that matter). (And it is different from FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus), which is more serious.) FIV weakens a cat's immune system, making it be more susceptible to infections.

FIV was discovered in 1986, when human AIDS fear was running high. Consequently, a positive test for FIV became a certain death sentence for cats - many, many kitties were euthanized to stop the spread of the disease and because they were considered sickly. But in recent years, we have learned more about FIV.

How FIV is, and isn't, spread

The virus is present in cat saliva and blood. The main route of cat-to-cat FIV transmission is through deep bite wounds during cat fights, where the infected cat’s saliva enters the other’s bloodstream. It does not appear to spread by friendly cat behavior, like mutual grooming or sharing bowls and litter boxes. Although FIV can also be passed from mother to kittens, recent evidence suggests this is relatively rare.

An FIV+ cat can live a normal happy life

Jasper - adoptable! Fortunately, an FIV positive test result is no longer a reason to euthanize a cat. We now know that FIV cats can live long lives - typically into their teens and beyond - and their lives are usually pretty normal. The FIV cat owner should keep the cat inside (away from fights), get prompt veterinary care for any wounds or infections, and provide good sources of nutrition (avoiding raw food that might contain harmful bacteria).

An FIV+ cat can live with other cats without infecting them

The previous conventional wisdom was that an FIV cat should be your only cat or be isolated from other cats. But as more and more data about cat-to-cat transmission is gathered, it's becoming clear that FIV does not often spread during normal friendly cat contact. Therefore, a mixed (FIV+/-) multiple cat household should present no problem as long as they get along. And you can’t transmit FIV by petting the cats. FIV is a fragile virus and cannot survive outside the body, in the carpet, etc. It is readily inactivated by soaps, disinfectants, heat and drying.

Treatment options

Simba - adoptable! Although any secondary infections should be treated promptly, there is no treatment for the FIV itself. A healthy cat could be given a vaccine for FIV – but it is not widely recommended because of limited efficacy and because the antibodies produced by the vaccine will make a healthy cat appear to test positive for FIV in the future.

    about FIV

  • FIV infects only cats.

  • FIV cats often show no symptoms at all.

  • FIV is rarely passed from one cat to another except via deep, penetrating bites.

  • FIV is a fragile germ and can't survive on the carpet, on your shoes, your hands... etc.

  • FIV+ cats need what most cats need: good nutrition, a safe environment (inside), regular preventative healthcare, a low stress existence and LOVE.


  • FIV+ cats usually look and act just like other cats.

  • FIV+ cats are barred from many adoption venues (e.g. some pet supply stores) so their visibility is limited.

  • FIV+ cats are listed as ‘special needs’ cats, which may scare off some adopters.

  • FIV+ cats have a reduced adoption fee at BARKS.

  • FIV+ cats may have been short-changed on petting in the past due to FIV stigma - they need your love!

References/for further reading:

Take a Chance on Me!

Beautiful, loving, ADOPTABLE cats at BARKS… who just happen to be FIV+

Simba here. I am a large, neutered, DSH, orange and white tabby boy. Just a streetwise puss that got caught a little off guard when I contracted FIV. Those are the breaks on the big city streets of Paterson. Anyhow I am a toughie and nothing like that is going to stop me from my purrrrsuit of happiness! I know I look a bit down in the mouth but really, I can handle it with the help of a new friend. Look at these honest yellow eyes and tell me we can't be you can't! I'll be waiting for you to give all my love and affection to. Just want to make one thing purrrfectly clear though... I want to be the ONLY cat in your life! I'm all you need.
Just look at those gorgeous azure eyes! Is there any doubt why this handsome puss has the name of a famous actor? He looks like a star! Paulie Newman is a large DSH neutered male brown tabby. He is a lover-boy in almost every sense of the word. Right now he needs a home so he can stretch out and re-lax in the lap (yours) of luxury. He has been on the road for too long and wants to be the star at your house and the ONLY one! Of course he's not purrrrfect, but pretty close. Paulie has contracted FIV in his travels but there's no reason to worry, he is quite healthy. "Please get meowt of this cage!" says Paulie. C' up in your limo and whisk him away!

My name is Jasper. I am a 7 yr. old, DSH, neutered, male, black cat with dark brown on my legs. I know I look like I am crying and you can hardly tell that my eyes are greenish yellow but I am getting over an infection and with the meds I should be as good as new. Well, almost...I am FIV positive too but that won't stop me from living a good long life. I have made it this far living on the streets of East Orange. Everyday was scary with kids throwing rocks at me and being mean. One time I tried to get into a woman's car just to get away from them. Then I got lucky (black cats ARE lucky you know), and some kind person brought me to BARKS so they could find me a happy home. Wouldn't you like to have me for your loyal friend? I have so much to talk about and love to chat. All I ever wanted was someone to love and have them love me back. I'll be waiting right here for you.
Hello, I'm Shelley, a 2yr old, DSH, beautiful spayed tabby with lots of white on my face and body. I have delicate Siamese features... a cute pink nose outlined in black, and lovely, cool, greenish blue eyes. I have been a mom for most of my young life and would love to catch up on lost time. I decided I am done with having kits and want to live a carefree life now. I am FIV+ but quite healthy. It would be nice to live w/o the worries of kittens. I just want a happy forever home that is stable and peaceful and not the chaos I had before in a crowded, messy house. I am so glad it didn't affect my sweet, loving temperament. How would you like me to purr you to sleep? Well, here's your chance! Come on down and pick me up.

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