Can FIV positive cats live with dogs? Yes, is the answer. It is surprising to find that a Google search for this question does not result in a clean, sure answer. But the answer must be that it is safe for dogs to live with a FIV positive cat or cats. The reasons are as follows.
Firstly, the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is not zoonotic. This means that it is not transmittable between animal species. The word “zoonotic” is normally stated to mean a disease that can be transmitted from animal to human but my understanding of the word is that it, in fact, means a disease which can be transmitted between different species.
The fact that this virus cannot be transmitted between different species automatically means that FIV positive cats can live with dogs. However, it is even better than that because FIV is very hard to transmit between cats. It has always been stated that almost the only way that this virus can be transmitted between cats is if a FIV positive cat bites a non-FIV positive cat whereupon the virus can be transmitted via the cat’s saliva.
However, research by Annette Litster on cats at two rescue centres indicate that it is almost impossible for the virus to be transmitted between cats even vertically. By “vertically” I mean that even if a mother cat is infected with the virus she does not transmit the virus to her unborn kittens based upon this research.
I think it useful to refer to her research in a bit more detail because it is very reassuring to cat owners in multi-cat households and cat-with-dog households and indeed shelters.
In the research Annette studied both the transmission of the disease between cats vertically and horizontally. I have referred to vertical transmission above. With respect to horizontal transmission, meaning between different cats, it was found that in one shelter of 138 cohabiting cats there were eight FIV positive cats. Her research indicated that there was a lack of evidence of FIV transmission between cats despite years of exposure to naturally-infected, FIV positive cats in a mixed household. In short and to reiterate, the non-FIV cats did not get the disease from the FIV positive cats even over years of association.
There has been some confusion about transmission of this disease between cats. Anette’s research should allay fears in cat rescue centres and in multi-cat households. I remember being criticised by a visitor to my website for stating that the disease is transmitted through cat bites. I was correct but I was incorrect in not stating that it is almost impossible to envisage one cat (the FIV positive one) biting another in a multi-cat household under normal conditions. Also information about FIV positive cats and transmissibility has moved on over the past several years. Experts are more knowledgeable.