Can a cat with feline AIDS give it to a human?

NO! This question was an important one in around 1986 which was five years after scientists discovered the cause of AIDS in humans namely HIV (the human immunodeficiency virus). Since then, a lot more has become known to the scientific community about AIDS in humans. However, in 1986 there was a scare concerning Feline AIDS (FIV) which led to the unnecessary killing of a large number of healthy household pets.

FIV and HIV are related but different species of virus
FIV and HIV are related but different species of virus. Image: MikeB.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Newspapers in California reported that a number of domestic cats had been identified as carrying the AIDS virus. A lot of pet owners panicked and wanted to put their cat to sleep, or they wanted to get rid of their cat in case a scratch gave them the dreaded disease.

Apparently, within hours of the report of feline AIDS being present in cats, veterinary clinics and cat sanctuaries were flooded with requests to have cats destroyed or rehomed. But that fear of transmission of the virus that causes feline AIDS to humans was entirely unfounded because the feline immunodeficiency virus is different to the one that attacks humans. It belongs to the same group of viruses but within the group it is a distant relative.

I read that the feline immunodeficiency virus was, in fact, first discovered in a Northern California cattery in 1986 which is three years after scientists, as mentioned above, identified the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Feline aids – a detailed look at FIV

You can see, therefore, the proximity in the time of discovery of the disease in cats and people leading some people to became concerned believing it could be transmitted to them i.e., it was a zoonotic disease. It is not a zoonotic disease. In more recent times the Covid pandemic caused the same concern in many people with the same consequences or worse. In China some cat owners simply threw their beloved cat companions out of apartment windows in high rise buildings to their deaths.

And interestingly, the Covid-19 virus IS transmissible from cats to humans (it is believed) and from humans to cats (certainly) but there are very few cases of either form of transmission. It has been confirmed that zookeepers gave the disease to big cats in a number of zoos but cats deal with the virus more successfully than humans. Some domestic cats got Covid from their owners but showed mild symptoms and resolved the illness without human intervention.

Percentage of cats with FIV in various countries

To return to feline AIDS (FIV) and to stress the point: these two viruses, the one that causes AIDS in people and the one that causes AIDS in cats are ‘species-specific’. HIV does not produce disease in cats and FIV does not produce disease in humans.

Below are some more articles on zoonotic diseases.

Brucella canis imported from Belarus in a rescue dog and the disease is spreading in the UK including to people because the disease is a zoonosis

Be aware of Brucella canis a new zoonosis in the UK

This is flagging up a zoonotic disease called Brucella canis in the UK. It affects dogs - but can it ...
Cat licking human hand in an act of affection is nice but some people might dislike it.

You might not like your cat’s loving licks

Domestic cats often instinctively lick their human caregiver on the hand and sometimes the face. It is called allogrooming. It ...
The British government considered killing all domestic cats in the UK during Covid

British government briefly considered ordering all domestic cats to be killed

Cast your mind back to the Covid-19 pandemic which incidentally has not entirely finished. People are still dying of it ...
Tick on cat

Time to check our cats’ skin as climate change is blamed for growth in tick diseases

This is an underreported but a serious matter which I think should concern cat owners. The problem is that the ...
Down with Xi Jingpin

China’s zero-Covid policy contributed to high youth unemployment and great difficulty caring for pets

NEWS AND OPINION-CHINA: the current news about China, widely reported in the West, is that its economy is going through ...
Toxoplasma parasite engages in 'identity theft' of immune cell to travel around the host's body

Is toxoplasmosis a serious problem for humans?

Toxoplasma gondii oocyst. Source: CDC and Science Direct. There is a disconnect between what we read about the seriousness of ...
Bird flu

Notes about bird flu, domestic cats and people

It might be useful just to briefly touch on the bird flu epidemic which affects America and other countries. I'm ...
Babesiosis on the rise in the United States

Experts sound alarm over babesiosis a tick-borne disease that kills people and infects cats

The tick, an unpleasant ectoparasite, is back in the news. We all know about Lyme disease carried by ticks but ...
Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

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