The Feline Immunodeficiency Virus or FIV is a disease that affects a cat’s immune system. Also known as feline AIDS, it weakens the immune system, making the cat more susceptible to infections in various parts of the body (skin, digestive system, respiratory system). Fortunately, with proper care, an FIV cat can live a long and happy life.
Part of this proper care includes feeding your FIV cat a healthy diet, and that’s why you need to work with your vet to choose the best food for cats with FIV. You also need to take simple steps at home to ensure your cat eats and enjoys its food.
How Do Cats Catch FIV?
FIV is spread through direct contact. Therefore, it is very important that FIV cats are kept indoors and fed a healthy diet. FIV is most commonly seen in unneutered male cats who have been involved in fighting for territory. It is spread by biting and body fluids and doesn’t spread in the environment. Some kittens can be passed the infection from their mum, but many can clear it before they’re six months old.
This disease is one of the main reasons why it is strongly recommended that all cats are neutered at four months of age, as neutering can reduce a male cat’s urges to mate, roam, and fight.
Can FIV be Cured?
Although there is no cure for FIV, some cats can live long and happy lives and can make wonderful pets. A vaccine exists to prevent FIV infection in America, but its use is controversial. Also, it’s not available in other parts of the world.
Selecting the Diet for Your FIV Cat
Talk to Your Vet
In general, cats with FIV don’t need a special diet. However, because not all FIV cats are alike, there is no ‘one size fits all’ diet for FIV cats. As your FIV cat may have specific dietary needs, talk with your vet before selecting a diet for your cat. For example, if your cat has another health condition, such as chronic kidney disease, it may have special dietary needs.
It’s recommended that a cat with chronic kidney disease be fed a diet that is low-protein. You can ask your vet questions about what your FIV cat’s diet should be. Your vet will recommend a diet based on your cat’s overall health.
Consider Your Cat’s Nutritional Needs
A FIV cat needs a nutritionally complete (contains all required nutrients) and a balanced diet. Protein is one of the most important nutrients in a cat’s diet. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they need animal-based proteins (chicken and beef) in their diets. Animal-based proteins contain amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein and are required for healthy growth.
Taurine is a very important amino acid for cats. It is found in animal-based proteins and is essential for a cat’s health. A taurine deficiency can lead to problems with vision, heart muscle function, and digestion. Other than protein, cats also need carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals in their diet.
Choose a Commercial Diet
Many commercial diets are available that provide your cat with proper nutrition. These diets come in several forms, including dry and canned. Dry foods are typically inexpensive, but may not be very tasty or digestible. Canned foods are tasty, but may not be nutritionally complete. Dry food usually contains plant-based proteins like grains and vegetables. These proteins don’t give cats enough of the amino acids they need for proper health.
Semi-moist cat food is another option. However, most semi-moist food tends to be high in carbohydrates and aren’t very nutritious. Also, additives or dyes in the food can cause allergic reactions in cats. When selecting cat food for your FIV cat, look for a certification from the Association of American Feed control. This certification ensures the food meets minimum nutrient requirements. You can also ask your vet for recommendations on commercial diets that would be best for your FIV cat.
Discuss Homemade Diets with Your Vet
Other than commercial diets, you could make a homemade diet for your cat. A homemade diet must be nutritionally balanced to satisfy your cat’s dietary needs. Be aware that homemade diets can be very time consuming to put together, and if you don’t have a lot of time, a commercial diet would likely be the better option for you.
If you decide to make a homemade diet, don’t add uncooked foods to the diet. FIV cats have weakened immune systems, making them very vulnerable to food-borne infections from parasites or bacteria. Uncooked foods like raw meat or eggs could make your cat very sick. To make a homemade diet for your cat, use an animal-based protein source like cooked chicken, turkey and beef, along with carbohydrates such as rice and boiled or mashed potatoes, whole oats, and vitamin and mineral supplements.
The portion size you feed your cat will depend on several factors such as age, activity level, and overall health of the cat. You should talk with a veterinary nutritionist before starting your cat on a homemade diet. The nutritionist would create a diet for your cat and give you recommendations on how to prepare the food in the best manner.
Select Vitamin Supplements for Your Cat
Supplements of vitamin C and vitamin E can help keep your FIV cat healthy. In particular, a vitamin E supplement can help strengthen your cat’s immune system. You should ask your vet for recommendations on high-quality vitamin supplements for your cat. Follow the product label instructions when feeding supplements to your cat.
Our Final Thoughts
Your cat’s dietary needs may change as the FIV progresses, and your cat’s immune system gets weaker. Your vet can recommend dietary changes to keep your cat as healthy as possible, despite the effects of the disease. That is why it is important that you have knowledge about the best foods for cats with FIV, as it may very well be the difference between a healthy pet and one that you have to put down.