Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, otherwise known as Feline Aids, is an infection that attacks the immune system of cats. About 1 in 12 cats tests positive for this disease, which can be difficult to detect since there are no classic or clinical signs associated with the disease itself. The only thing that helps the disease is the FDA-approved FIV vaccine, which must be given soon after birth. While a great treatment for a deadly disease, many are torn on whether or not the preventative care vaccination is actually a great thing for cats.
Pros Of Vaccinating Your Cat
The benefits for the vaccine are obvious: Immunization from a disease that will kill your cat with little to no outward signs indicating the decline of her health. Essentially, the virus is the same as HIV, only in cats. The benefits of having a vaccine to prevent infection are astronomical, but for cats, one wonders… is it really necessary?
Cons Of Vaccinating Your Cat
Perhaps the biggest con to the FIV vaccination is the notion that if we inject a little of the virus early on in the life of our cats in order to prevent contracting the disease later on, then we run the risk of losing them permanently if they are ever picked up by animal control or a shelter if they wander off. See, vaccinating your cat against FIV means that they will remain FIV positive for the remainder of their lives; anyone who has no records of their history doesn’t know if your cat is vaccine positive or disease positive, so the cat will likely be destroyed to prevent possible contamination to other animals.
Narrow the “1 in 12 cats” risk down to those in the United States, and you’re looking at about 2% of cats that are actually “at risk” in the first place. Cats are actually very likely to wander off at some point in their lives, so it seems as though the larger risk lies in losing the cat itself to an ignorant shelter with rules to destroy all “FIV positive” and no way to differentiate between those who truly are or aren’t.
Though a minor con, cost can also be an issue, depending on the vet. Those who have pets know that no cost is too small when it comes to a life saving treatment; but in the case of the FIV vaccine? A couple hundred dollars is a lot.
Whether or not you are for the vaccine is a personal decision, and one that you should speak carefully with your veterinarian about. Take into account the risk you run of your cat contracting the disease from another animal, or the risk in your cat ever running away and being put down. Which is a greater risk to you? Act accordingly.