What You Need to Know About Feline AIDS

Feline AIDS is a disease that affects about 3% of all cats living in the US. The key to keeping your cat healthy is gathering as much information you can about the disease. You should understand how it is transmitted as well as what you can do to protect your cat from being infected with it. If your cat should be sick with Feline AIDS then you will want to know how to treat your cat in the best possible way. The following information is designed to offer some basic information about Feline AIDS.

What Is Feline AIDS?

Feline AIDS (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) is very similar to human AIDS in the it affects the cat’s immune system making it harder and harder for him/her to ward off infections. Even the smallest bacterial infections can become deadly to a cat that is suffering from Feline AIDS. This virus can lay dormant in your cat for literally years before causing a problem. This is why having your cats tested each and every year is very important. The thing that typically kills a cat who is suffering from Feline AIDS is the secondary infection that typically occurs as a result of a weakened immune system. There are some treatments available but to date there is no cure for this life threatening feline virus.

How Do Cats Get Feline AIDS?

There are a couple of different ways that a cat can become exposed to Feline AIDS. The most common is by way of a bite from another infected cat. This usually happens in cats who either live outdoors or have a tendency to go outdoors often and have never been vaccinated for the virus. The other way a cat can get Feline AIDS is at birth in kittens who are born to a cat who has the virus. While the latter is less common in general, there is still a small chance that infection can occur in this way. A cat who was born with the virus may live to be about 18 months to two years old before any symptoms arise. The best thing to do is to keep your cat inside at all times and away from other cats who are exposed to the outdoors. If you have more than one cat then have them both tested and then once you are sure they are negative, work toward keeping them that way.

Stages of Feline AIDS

There are actually three very distinct stages of Feline AIDS. These are called acute, latent and final. When a cat is in the acute stages of Feline AIDS, a few symptoms could present themselves. In some cases the symptoms will go completely unnoticed but they typically occur just about 6 to 8 weeks after the disease has been contracted. These symptoms are swollen lymph nodes and fever. During the latent stage is when the illness is actually lying dormant. This could last for many years before the disease progresses or becomes evident at all. The latent stage also marks the period in which the virus begins to slowly attack the cat’s immune system. By the time the cat is in the final stage of Feline AIDS many things will begin to go wrong. The cat will probably lose his/her appetite, lose weight, become generally lethargic and develop a fever. This is when most people realize there is something wrong with their cat.

Secondary Infections

Once a cat has reached the final stage of Feline AIDS his/her immune system will be pretty much shot. This is when many different complications can arise. Most of the time things like skin infections, respiratory infections and anemia develop. Basically anything that can go wrong with your cat’s health will during this stage. Sadly, once this stage is reached most cats who are ill will not even have a year left to live. The key during this time is to try and keep the cat as comfortable as possible. Some people opt for euthanasia if they feel their cats are suffering too much. This is an individual decision that can only be made with careful thought and deliberation. Other people do everything they can to try and save their cat, spending thousands of dollars on blood transfusions and bone marrow transplants.

Caring for a Cat With Final Stage Feline AIDS

The one thing that you will have to do when trying to take care of a cat who is sick with Feline AIDS is to keep him/her as comfortable as possible. You must do your best to make sure the cat eats and drinks. Sometimes this will involve hand feeding bland foods like jarred baby food. You may also get your cat to drink some chicken broth. Your cat will not feel like eating so it will be up to you to be sure that he does eat at least a little something. Often when you start spoon feeding baby food the cat becomes slightly interested in the taste and smell of the food. Other times it is a struggle all the way through the feeding.

It can be very sad to watch your beloved cat suffer from a horrible disease such as Feline AIDS. In fact, it can be truly heart breaking. Even with recent advancements in veterinary medicine, this disease almost always claims the life of cats who are infected with it. The only thing an owner can do is commit to treating the cat in the best possible way and hope for the best possible outcome. There have been rare cases in which the virus was arrested but remission is always a possibility in the future.


  1. The article is spot on especially the last paragraph. It is heart breaking to watch your cat suffer and what ever you and the vet try just prolong the suffering. Unfortunately it is difficult to get the vet to put the cat down. He uses the opportunity to make as much money as possible from the distressing situation.

  2. My dad's cat recently got put down because of feline AIDS, I personally think once it is definitely AIDS, it should be put down so it isn't in any pain whatsoever.

  3. My husband and I for the past two months had been feeding a stray cat that followed us home when we were out with our Chihuahua on a walk. He would come by our home different times during the day and night. He had no collar and hadn't been fixed so we assumed he was a stray and he looked a little scruffy. He was full grown, all dark grey with big green eyes but we did notice his coat was dull. We let him in the house only when we could supervise because we were afraid of him clawing at our little 5 lb. Chihuahua, Chai.

    Well, after two months of him being at our home we thought the responsible thing to do was to take him to our Vet for a check-up and vaccinations. He had never bit us but he has scratched us a couple of times. It was over two weeks since we were scratched by him when we took him to the Vet's office. When out walking with my dog I had seen him a few times in a fighting stance with other cats in the neighbourhood, he was definitely the aggressor. When he first came to us he had a 1" gash that was bleeding below his left ear, it healed, but then a month later an identical gash appeared in the same spot. By the way we named him Davy. Our Vet checked him with the help of her assistant and said that his gums were inflamed and he had missing back teeth and that he was approximately around 7 years of age. She said he had "issues". Davy had a cough when he first came to us but it only last a couple of days and did not return. Our Vet said that before giving him the rabies vaccination she needed to test him for feline leukaemia and feline aids. She did a ten minute antibody for both tests. She then informed us that he tested positive for feline aids. My husband and I were saddened to hear this. When the Vet mentioned his immune system was too weak to give him a rabies vaccination and that if we take him home we have to make sure he stays indoors at all times as not to infect other cats. Davy being an outdoor cat and not being able to have his vaccination and in poor health we decided to put him down. It was hard for us, especially my husband who fell in love with him, but we couldn't also bear for him to keep going on with his condition and the thought of him worsening. We signed the papers and the Vet took him in the back and then came back to tell us he was gone and that he would be picked up to be taken to be cremated. It has been a hard week for us. I guess I'm telling you all this for validation of having Davy put down. Thank You for reading Mr. Jorgensen.

    Lisa Kornsila

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