Transmission of feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) among cohabiting cats in two cat rescue shelters

Vet J. 2014 Aug;201(2):184-8. doi: 10.1016/j.tvjl.2014.02.030. Epub 2014 Mar 31.


Conflicting accounts have been published in the veterinary literature regarding transmission of feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) between cohabiting cats in mixed households, and the mechanics of possible casual transmission, if it occurs, are poorly understood. Similarly, there are conflicting reports of vertical transmission of FIV. The aim of the present study was to document the FIV serological status of cats taken into two rescue shelters. At rescue shelter 1 (Rescue 1), cats cohabited in a multi-cat household of FIV-negative and naturally-infected, FIV-positive cats. A study was performed that combined a retrospective review of records of FIV serological status at intake (Test 1) and prospective FIV serological testing (Tests 2 and 3). Retrospective records were analyzed at rescue shelter 2 (Rescue 2), where FIV-positive queens with litters of nursing kittens were taken into the shelter, before being rehomed. FIV serology was performed on all kittens after weaning. Initial test results (Test 1) for 138 cohabiting cats from Rescue 1 showed that there were 130 FIV-negative cats and eight FIV-positive cats (six male neutered and two female spayed). A second test (Test 2), performed in 45 of the FIV-negative and five of the FIV-positive cats at median 28 months after Test 1 (range, 1 month to 8.8 years) showed that results were unchanged. Similarly, a third test (Test 3), performed in four of the original FeLV-negative cats and one remaining FIV-positive cat at median 38 months after Test 1 (range, 4 months to 4 years), also showed that results were unchanged. These results show a lack of evidence of FIV transmission, despite years of exposure to naturally-infected, FIV-positive cats in a mixed household. At Rescue 2, records were available from five FIV-positive queens with 19 kittens. All 19 kittens tested FIV-negative, suggesting that vertical transmission had not occurred.

Keywords: Cats; Cohabitation; FIV; Feline immunodeficiency virus; Transmission.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood
  • Cat Diseases / transmission*
  • Cat Diseases / virology
  • Cats
  • Female
  • Immunodeficiency Virus, Feline / genetics
  • Immunodeficiency Virus, Feline / isolation & purification*
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical / veterinary*
  • Lentivirus Infections / transmission
  • Lentivirus Infections / veterinary*
  • Lentivirus Infections / virology
  • Leukemia Virus, Feline / genetics
  • Leukemia Virus, Feline / isolation & purification
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction / veterinary
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Antibodies, Viral