Turkey’s Istanbul domestic cats are 10 times more likely to have FIV than British domestic cats

This may surprise readers. I didn’t know until I read a study published in 2000 (things may have changed since) on the topic and compared the figures to those provided by Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. The study tells us how commonplace FIV infections are in cats in Istanbul. And there appears to be no difference in the incidence of this disease between domestic and feral cats. That’s even more surprising to me.

Twenty-two percent of Istanbul domestic cats carried antibodies to FIV which indicated that there had been exposed to the disease and their immune systems had tackled it. Therefore, they were infected with the disease i.e. FIV positive. A very similar percentage at 22.2% of feral cats had the disease.

This is about one in every five domestic cats in Istanbul. Battersea tells us that approximately 2-5% of the cat population in the UK are affected by FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus).

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I think we have to try and decide why there’s this huge difference between Istanbul and your typical domestic cat in Britain. It’s probably because there is less control over informal breeding in Istanbul and also the cats are probably allowed outside almost all the time. Therefore, it’s likely there will be more unsterilised male cats defending territory and getting into fights with other male cats in Istanbul compared to your typical British city. The problem would appear to be informal or what I would call ad hoc breeding because the owner didn’t sterilise their cat. That’s my assessment without knowing more.

Male cats more commonly infected with FIV than female cats. Misleadingly in my opinion, the study reports that a similar percentage of domestic cats in Japan, the USA, France and the UK have FIV, which contradicts completely what Battersea says in regards to the UK.

Most of the FIV positive cat in the Istanbul study were male cats at 65.2%. This appears to be fairly typical and what seems to be a very high percentage. The reason why male cats become infected more frequently than females must be – I would suggest – related to their differences in behaviour with males being more territorial than females even after being sterilised.

This means that they engage in fighting more often and fighting includes biting and it is through biting that the disease is normally transmitted in saliva. Between unsterilised and sterilised males, the former are more likely to be FIV positive than the latter.

The virus does not survive long outside of the infected cat’s and therefore it can’t be transmitted through clothing or equipment.

It’s important to note that FIV positive cats can live good and happy lives in the right homes where the caregiver is sensitive and aware of the illness.

A cat with FIV is at a greater risk of contracting infectious diseases because of a compromised immune system but they can live and enjoy a normal lifespan with no apparent health concerns. Battersea recommends that adopters consider rehoming a FIV positive cat for this reason.

Common signs of a FIV infection will include inflammation of the gums, mouth ulcers, weight loss, poor appetite, fever, conjunctivitis, swollen lymph glands and vomiting and diarrhoea.

Study referred to: Prevalence of FIV and FELV Infections in Cats in Istanbul. Link: https://doi.org/10.1053/jfms.2000.0066

The Turkish are it seems to me in general fond of their cats. There is a generally good relationship. But as is the case in Israel, there is an issue with unregulated breeding by stray and semi-feral cats. Too many street cats it seems. Perhaps not enough TNR or authority involvement in sterilizing stray cats and ensuring domestic cats are spayed and neutered.

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