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C2009-15

Dear Christopher Cat

We found a stray cat, and she tested positive for feline AIDS. Can humans catch this virus?

Also, our veterinarian said she might not really have the virus. Isn’t this test accurate?

Christopher Responds

In answer to your first question: No, the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is not transmissible to humans. However, the virus can spread to other cats through bite wounds.

Next, the FIV test is quite accurate, but the results come with some caveats.

Your cat may be free of FIV but test positive if she was vaccinated for FIV before you found her. The vaccine triggers antibody formation, and the test can’t determine whether the antibodies it detects developed in response to vaccination or disease. Vaccine antibodies last at least a year, so you can retest after that time.

If your cat is under six months of age, and her mother had FIV or was vaccinated for it, your cat may have ingested FIV antibodies in her mother’s colostrum, the antibody-rich first milk. These antibodies will disappear by six months of age, so if she’s a kitten, retest her then.

The good news is that many FIV-positive cats live long, happy lives. Your cat will do best living indoors, safe from outdoor injuries and other cats’ diseases.

 

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