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Dear Christopher Cat

I just learned that I have HIV. For health reasons, I am being pressured to give up my cats, who mean the world to me. Is this necessary?

Christopher Responds

Probably not.

Experts estimate that at least 30 to 40 percent of people with compromised immune systems live with companion animals.

Some of these people have HIV, while others take immunosuppressive drugs to treat cancer or prevent rejection of transplanted organs.

Multiple studies have demonstrated what we cats already knew: people who live with pets are healthier than those who don’t.

Furthermore, one study surveyed AIDS patients with diseases that pets and people can share. Researchers found that these diseases were just as prevalent in patients who did not live with pets as they were in patients who did.

So please consider keeping your cats.

To protect your own health, follow these guidelines to keep your cats healthy and minimize the chances that you will catch any disease they might be carrying:

Keep your cats inside so they can’t hunt or contact animals that might carry disease.

Don’t let them get into the garbage or drink from the toilet.
Ask your veterinarian to examine your cats at least annually, and have their fecal samples checked at least twice a year. Keep your cats’ vaccinations current.

If your cats haven’t been screened for the feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency viruses, ask your veterinarian to run these tests. Both viruses suppress the cat’s immune system, making it easier for the cat to contract diseases they could pass to you.

If one of your cats develops diarrhea, a respiratory infection, or other illness or parasitic infection – even fleas – see your veterinarian immediately.

Feed a high quality, commercial diet. Never give your cats unpasteurized dairy products or feed raw or undercooked meat or poultry.

Have someone else take over the litter box responsibility.
If that’s not possible, scoop litter boxes daily. Wear a surgical mask and gloves, and wash your hands afterwards.

Keep your cats’ claws trimmed. If you are scratched or bitten, wash the wound immediately and call your physician.

For more information, contact Pets Are Wonderful Support (PAWS) at 1-415-241-1460, or go to and click on Education.

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