What is "Feline Aids"?
"Feline Aids" as a lot of people refer to it is caused by a virus; specifically, the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). FIV causes symptoms in cats very similar to the symptoms that HIV causes in people. It basically, destroys the cat's immune system causing them to be much more susceptable to infections. Most of the time, the first indication that a cat has FIV is that it has an infection that seems to be causing the cat to be more ill than it should. An example would be an abscess (infection under the skin) that suddenly appears on the cat. Another example would be an upper respiratory infection.
How does a cat get FIV?
FIV is transmitted from cat to cat through an exchange between the saliva of an infected cat and the bloodstream of an non-infected cat. Most typically through a bite wound. The virus then hides in the cat for up to 6 years before emerging and attacking the immune system. So, there are a lot of cats that have FIV, but are not showing any symptoms. Because it is usually transmitted through bite wounds, FIV is found most commonly in stray cats and the occasional indoor/outdoor cat.
How do I protect my cat from getting FIV?
The most full proof way is to keep the cat indoors. That way they are never exposed to cat's that have FIV. Also, since it is transmitted through a bite, if your cat is only going into it's own yard, then you don't really need to worry. However, there are vaccines available for the cats that do go outside and tend to wander.
Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) causes symptoms similar to FeLV and is transmitted much more easily. It can be transmitted from an infected cat's saliva to a non-infected cat through the mucus membranes (lining in the mouth, nose, and eyes). Therefore, it can be transmitted by one cat simply hissing and spitting on another or through sharing a water dish, etc. Therefore, if your cat is going to go outside, then I highly recommend that you have them vaccinated for FeLV.
There is a test for FIV/FeLV that is a simple blood test. I highly recommend that if you are going to bring a new cat into your home, you have then tested first. That way you will know what you are dealing with. Like I said, the cat can have the virus for years and not show any symptoms, so if they test positive, then you have to measure their expected life span and the risk to your other cats.
Can it be treated?
Unfortunately, no. There is no treatment for the virus. However, many FIV positive cats live long happy lives.