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Matthew Sisk: Kitten tests negative for FIV two weeks later
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After a dramatic arrival to our planet, followed by a few weeks of mostly uneventful growth, Leia threw us a curveball. She tested positive for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus.

Leia appears healthy externally, but the test result is a big deal. Over the course of her life, it may damage her immune system to the point that she is more susceptible to opportunistic infections, parasites and even cancer.

The disease isn’t easily spread to other cats, but it is important to know a cat’s status before exposing them to other cats. Although FIV isn’t likely to spread to a new cat in the household, the new feline may harbor a respiratory infection that’s no big deal to most felines, but could kill an FIV-positive cat.

But Leia, as she’s taught us thus far in her young life, isn’t typical.

Today, she doesn’t test positive for the disease. Or more accurately, she doesn’t have the antibodies against the disease.

The screening test used in our office detects antibodies, but it isn’t specific to whose they are. Were the circulating antibodies made by Leia, they should still be present. But if they were left over from her mother, they could now be gone. This loss of maternal protection is why vaccines are essential for kittens (and puppies and babies). Mom’s blood can only protect you for so long, then your body disposes of the antibodies, and you’re on your own.

Another explanation would be Leia simply eliminated the infection herself. This isn’t typical for a kitten her age, but it is possible.

Furthermore, our test may have been faulty. But we have no other indications of flawed tests, so that’s less likely as well.

Regardless of the reason, Leia is now “FIV negative.”

Thus, her kitten immunizations are started. Her first one is often called the “combo” vaccine, or FVRCP. This is often called the “cat distemper vaccine,” but actually stands for Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, Panleukopenia. You can see why we abbreviate it. These common viruses can kill kittens and sicken adult cats.

Leia’s next visit should be in a month.

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

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