Friday, June 17, 2011

Free to roam = Free to get sick.

My friend called me in tears the other day after she had brought her mother's cat home with her to introduce into her home with her two other cats.  She had prepared everything to make the transition smooth. But nothing prepared her for the news that her new cat had tested positive for feline AIDS.

What exactly is feline AIDS and how does it differ from the HIV?  While the two viruses are similar, and cause similar symptoms, FIV affects cats only and poses no threat to humans.  It is not transferable to dogs or any other species.  Like the human virus, it weakens the cats immune system and increases a cat’s susceptibility to infection and disease.  It is possible, however, with special care and regular visits to the vet for an FIV kitty to lead a healthy happy and reasonably long life.

A cat with FIV should be kept indoors and away from cats that who are not infected with FIV so that the disease does not spread.  Because Feline AIDS can only be passed through a significant bite wound or contact with the infected cat’s blood, uninfected cats should be kept in separate rooms, or even better, separate homes to avoid the risk of a fight.

My friend's new kitty came from a home where she was allowed to roam free in the city's harbor every day.  While it may seem natural to allow a cat to roam free in our neighborhoods, the city streets and alleys are not natural to a cat.  There are many dangers from the obvious road kill hazard to feral cat overpopulation that leads to more fights and diseases spread to your cat.  For your pet's safety, make sure all new cats being introduced to your home are checked out by a vet first. And keep your pets indoors and/or in a protected backyard environment.

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