Categories: FIV

Should a feral cat with FIV be euthanized?

A feral cat with FIV should not automatically be euthanised. The reasons are straightforward.

FIV particle

FIV cats can and often do live good lives in the right home. Secondly, feral cats are unsocialised to varying degrees. All feral cats can be socialised. It depends how knoledgeable, committed and patient you are.

In fact some cats labelled ‘feral’ are quite domesticated. Therefore it is quite practical to argue that a feral cat can become a domestic cat and a great companion. The fact that feral cats are often euthanised in shelters does not mean it is a correct policy. It means that it is a pragmatic policy due to financial and resource constraints.

Based on this, you have to argue that it is wrong, ideally, to euthanise a feral cat with FIV.

Celia Hammond Animal Trust says this:

CHAT’s policy on FIV is that routine euthanasia of healthy FIV positive cats is wrong and unnecessary. Basically, a diagnosis of FIV in a healthy cat should not be a death sentence.

However, it depends on the attitude of the person or organisation which is asking themselves the question: Should a feral cat with FIV be euthanised? I am sure that the number of feral cats with FIV which are euthanised in the USA annually is in six figures but that does not mean that they should be euthanised. It just means that it is convenient to do so under the circumstances and constraints of modern life.

There are all kinds of constraints and circumstances under which a person would consider it impractical to not euthanise a FIV feral cat. I accept that and some veterinarians recommend it. As I said it is a question of attitude.

The biggest issue is how a FIV cat might spread the disease to other cats. The virus is shed in saliva and a bites during fights among toms are a source of virus transmission. Casual and close contact alone is not a ‘major mode of transmission’. A mother can pass it on to offspring while pregnant.

For these reasons Celia Hammond says:

Provided the cats are not aggressive to other cats, our experiences lead us to believe that there is no reason that they cannot be re-homed with FIV negative cats that are similarly friendly towards other cats.

I think what she says reflects the views of the majority of people in cat rescue. I return therefore to my conclusion at the beginning of the article. A feral cat with FIV should not by default be euthanised but it depends on attitude and resources as to whether this position is adhered to.

Note: Celia Hammond is a respect cat rescuer in London, UK. I respect her advice. The quote about transmission is from Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook.


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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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  • No way. Even feral cats with HIV have the chance for a good home and equal opportunity to become good pets. MyBoy my feral is the sweetest boy although he is still to wild to be with my others. He has learned to meow and come closer and closer, play with toys and relax in the comfort of an easy chair. I know he was abused and bitten by other cats but it appears he was just too timid and kind to fight back. We just had to hold back food for almost a month to get him to the vet because he was too crafty to get into The TNR trap. He maintained his good nature all the time and finally got to the vet yesterday in his carrying case which we have always left him and he often uses for safety. He is in good health at about 3 years old. We never even railed at the bars of the carrier nor growled angrily. Why shouldn’t this lovely boy have a chance at life. I surely think so.

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