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Matthew Sisk: Humans cant contract cats FIV
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Leia’s family is freaked out.

They’ve called no less than four times since her last visit, and today I’m finally able to end the game of phone tag and catch their call.

As you might expect, Leia’s positive test result for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus has shaken the family. But aside from concerns for Leia, they also have done some research online, and now have concerns for their family.

Can Leia give them the virus?

There are many ways to answer that question. My word limit prohibits the essay answer, so I’ll just give you the answer in one word: no.

You see, Leia is a cat. As such, she is susceptible to feline viruses, of which FIV is one. But it does not jump across species.

HIV is for humans. FIV does not mutate and become HIV. So changing Leia’s litter poses no risk. Neither does feeding her, playing with her or letting her sleep with you.

In the 1980s, when HIV and FIV were first described and researched, fear slowed the accumulation of knowledge about HIV. The president even privately described it in homophobic terms and refused to offer money for further research. That cost people their lives.

Luckily for cats, no such bigotry shaded FIV research. Cats were treated much more humanely than their human counterparts.

So please ask scientific experts your questions about science. If someone with a political agenda or someone who just wants to sound cool on the school bus offers their opinion, just smile and nod. But protect yourself with skepticism.

Science is one of the loves of my life. But it will break my heart in an instant in the name of truth. Science is the pursuit of reliable truth. Nothing more, nothing less.

So if someone who isn’t a scientist offers a scientific opinion, accept it, then check with other sources. True science welcomes questions and doubt. And free communication is the only way to facilitate that.

No, Leia can’t give her family FIV. Some fecal parasites, yes. Fleas, yes. Cat scratch fever, yes. Even rabies. But not FIV.

Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at

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