Can I Get AIDS from a Cat?

It may surprise people that I am answering what appears to be a simple question. But it is a question which is still asked on the internet through Google search. There is still some ignorance of this subject.

No, you cannot get AIDS from a cat. This is because Feline Aids, as it is commonly referred to, is caused by a different virus from the one that attacks humans. The virus belongs to the same group of viruses but within the group it is a distant relative. So if you are bitten or scratched by a cat suffering from the disease and even if the cat had infected blood on his claws or teeth, the human victim would not pick up the disease. There is no evidence that Feline Aids can infect a human.

There’s an interesting story in a book I am currently reading written by Dr Desmond Morris (Cat World). He refers to a scare around 1996 concerning Feline Aids which led to the slaughter of a large number of healthy household cats.

Apparently, newspapers in California reported that a number of domestic cats had been diagnosed with the AIDS virus. As a consequence, many cat owners panicked and had their cats euthanized in case a scratch or bite from their cat gave them the dreaded disease. There appears to have been a stampede to veterinary clinics and cat sanctuaries with requests to have cats destroyed or to find new homes. Today, fortunately, cat owners are far better informed thanks largely to widespread information on the Internet.

Zoonotic: disease transmittable between humans and animals.

P.S. Cats can’t get AIDS from people either.

P.P.S. Feline Aids is also called the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).

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