Thursday, February 3, 2011

FIV doesn't have to be the boogie man anymore

The decade of the 80s is well remembered, among other things, for the AIDS scare. When the epidemy started, we didn't have a name for it and had no clue what was causing it, until around 1987 when the deadly retrovirus was identified and given the name HIV, Human Immunodeficiency Virus.

Around the same time, the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, or FIV, was also identified and for years, FIV built a mean reputation mostly for the fear and impression that the HIV virus was leaving on every mind, worldwide. FIV & HIV seemed too closely related, they had to be equally lethal.

Decades later, and with a lot more research into the topic, it seems we were all wrong! FIV is not what it was thought to be, and little by little the perception has been changing as studies, experience and true stories of cats with FIV leaving long happy lives are available to the public.

Francis Battista, Co-Founder of the Best Friends Animal Society, explains in a recent article than "...rather than being transmitted by casual contact such as sharing food and water bowls and even mutual grooming, FIV is only transmitted in utero from an infected mother to her kittens or by a serum-to-blood route, as in a deep bite wound. And not only was FIV not an easily transmitted disease, for the most part cats who had FIV lived long and uneventful lives when given normal attentive care that included early intervention for common maladies such as the sniffles."

So, it is fair to say that a positive FIV test is no longer a death sentence, not even a good estimator of the quality of life or life expectancy of the cat. This means that we can finally remove the stigma of being FIV+ and give these kitties the same opportunities to LIVE and to find their forever home by sharing the spotlight at adoption events, websites and other media with their FIV- friends.  Many rescues are already changing their policies and it's my hope that PETCO will do so soon as well.

At this moment, PETCO does not allow rescue groups to bring FIV+ cats into their stores for adoption events. The old myth of FIV is robbing countless cats of the chance to be discovered by that perfect family, to find a forever home.

As with other illnesses, human or animal, studies and research are helping remove the stigma from FIV+ cats, now it's our turn to make sure we are informed, that we look for facts rather than myths and then act on this new information.

For more details on FIV, please check this list of FIV Facts published by Best Friends.

Then, you can contact PETCO and respectfully ask them to remove this old policy and get with the times! You can contact Karen Meader, PETCO National Adoption Program Manager at and you can also sign the online petition available here


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