Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) Ten Times More Common Amongst Strays in Norway Than in America?
An online website reports that a study carried out by Animal Protection Norway has found that between 70% and 80% of stray cats in the Hadeland region of the country have tested positive for FIV.
The Hadeland region represents about 5% of the landmass of Norway but 15% of the farmland. It is situated in the south-eastern part of the country. It is a large area but it might not be representative of Norway as a whole. Nonetheless the very high incidence of feline immunodeficiency virus in stray cats in this region is worrying because it is about 10 times higher than that found in stray and feral cats of Texas and Florida, for example.
The authorities in Norway are urging people who own domestic cats to ensure that they are spayed and neutered in order to minimise their interaction with stray cats thereby potentially picking up this infectious disease. The idea is that neutered cats, particularly male cats, are less likely to roam and get into aggressive interactive situations with other cats in the area.
The figures for America come from studies conducted in 2003. Among 226 cats trapped during a five-year study at the University of Texas, 6% were positive for FIV. In a Florida university campus program 7% were positive for the disease. In a further study concerning Istanbul, Turkey prevalence of FIV was 22%.
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In the UK study, 516 stray cats entering an animal shelter and a veterinary hospital in Birmingham, England in 1997 were tested for FIV. The prevalence of antibodies to FIV was 10.4%. Amongst these cats there were some that were regarded as tame – in fact the majority of them were. For true feral cats the incidence of the disease was 20.4%.
The question therefore on the minds of concerned people in Norway is why there is such a high incidence of positively tested stray cats to the feline immunodeficiency virus in a large section of their country. At present they don’t have answers.
A spokesperson for Animal Protection Norway said:
“More cats were infected than we had expected…”
There is concern that there may be an outbreak amongst Norwegian domestic cats of this nasty disease. On the bright side, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority say that they are not concerned about a potential outbreak for domestic cats in homes. They say that the number of cases of this disease has been stable for many years.
Sources: 1 and The Welfare of Cats pages 166 and 167.
I don’t know if Norway follows any TNR protocol for their ferals or not. But, if not, they need to model other countries where ferals are tested routinely. If confirmed positive, ferals should be treated and, possibly, colonized together as much as possible (sort of like the old human TB colonies of long ago) so as to contain and prevent multiplying.