It's easy to let your heart melt when you see that stray kitten or cat around your home. You could feed it and provide it shelter - what harm could it do to let it live with you? The truth is, it can cause harm to the other cats living in your home.
Cats who spend a great deal of time outdoors are at risk for FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus).
FIV weakens a cat's immune system, making is more susceptible to secondary infections. Symptoms include enlarged lymph nodes, fever, anemia, weight loss, poor appetite, diarrhea, inflammation of the eye, gums/mouth, dental disease, skin redness or hair loss, wounds that don't heal, sneezing, and changes in behaviour.
The virus is slow acting, and may take years for symptoms to appear. It is transmitted through bites - which can occur when cats fight. There is no cure for FIV, and veterinarians are only able to treat the secondary infections.
FIV is often confused with FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus), a different virus that also affects a cat's immune system. In addition to impairing the immune system, FeLV also causes certain types of cancer, including lymphoma and fibrosarcomas.
The symptoms can be similar to FIV, with anemia, diarrhea and inflammation of the mouth/gums. Other symptoms of FeLV include weight loss, ear and skin infections, fever, and wobbly or uncoordinated movement.
FeLV is transmitted through contact such as bites, grooming, sharing dishes or litter pans, or just being in close contact.
It's important to take your cat to the veterinarian if they show any of these symptoms to determine if they have either virus.
These viruses can be life threatening. Testing is highly recommended in outdoor cats, especially if they are showing signs of illness.
The veterinarians at Pickering Animal Hospital can run tests to determine if your cat or the neighbourhood stray has either of these viruses and can recommend treatment options.
Pickering Animal Hospital is located at 14-1450 Kingston Road in Pickering. For more information, call (905) 420-1734 or visit www.pickeringanimalhospital.ca