Animal Shelters Screening for Retroviruses (FIV and FeLV)

We are told that many high kill shelters euthanize FIV+ cats because of a lack of space and because they believe that they won’t be adopted. I expect that many people associated with animal shelters, such as Elisa Black-Taylor, will have first-hand experience of this (an explanation of FIV in plain language). If I am wrong please tell me.

FIV postive cat
“Our Brinkley is FIV+”
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

The question I have today is whether animal shelters thoroughly test for these diseases in order to come to a result which is as certain as possible or whether they rely on a single test. I don’t know and I would like to know. Perhaps somebody can enlighten me?

Screening for these retroviruses is problematic. It is fraught with difficulties. Both the test is tricky and the decision after the test is also tricky.

I am told that:

“depending on the prevalence of infection, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) or immunochromatography testing in healthy individuals will have a false positive rate between 30 and 50%”.

The test is very uncertain. A cat who tests positive for FIV should not be euthanized on the basis of a single positive test. But is this what commonly happens at animal shelters?

Is it true that both feral and stray cats are labelled as the sort of cats which are more likely to carry these diseases? If so does it change the mentality of animal shelter staffers towards these sorts of cats brought to the shelter?

Apparently, “a higher prevalence of infection in feral cat populations has not been documented in a number of studies”. In other words, the prevalence of these diseases in domestic, stray and feral cats is similar. If that is true then there should be no prejudice against feral or stray cats, if it exists.

Apparently, higher false positive rates have been recorded in individual cats that have been recently vaccinated. In addition, some tests provide a positive result if the cat is infected with “spumavirus”, a related retrovirus.

The screening test should be repeated 6 to 8 weeks later or an alternative test should be employed to confirm a positive ELISA result. Sometimes the results will not be the same – one might be positive and the other negative. Then what happens? There has to be a further investigation. But is this practical in animal shelters? I don’t think it is. It may be naïve of me to even suggest that it is possible.

In any case, putting aside the uncertainty of the testing for these retroviruses, there is no need to euthanize a FIV cat or be afraid to adopt one. Is this the attitude of management at animal shelters and if not why not?

Sorry for all the questions.

3 thoughts on “Animal Shelters Screening for Retroviruses (FIV and FeLV)”

  1. GCACS will not allow an FIV cat to leave the shelter if it will be housed with non-FIV cats. They killed one named Cider for this reason a week or so ago. The rescue was in the lobby to pick her up and they killed her. Murdering SOB’S. I’m about fed up with all of them.


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