Fights and FAIDS


Many conditions seem to come along in groups here at Clutha Vets, last month was GDV’s but this month we have been seeing large numbers of cat abscesses.


All cats are territorial animals, even our pampered and neutered domestic moggy. Although they won’t go looking for fights, when a stranger wanders into their backyard, they are usually willing to have a go at defending their turf! At the moment it seems likely that the feral tom cats are moving about as their winter food sources dry up – the end result being many a cat that hasn’t had a fight in years are ending up on our consulting room table with festering wounds!


Although the bad cat abscess is easy to spot; there is a wide variety of signs depending on where and how severely your cat is bitten. A leg wound is very painful and is usually obvious because the cat is lame. As there isn’t very much spare skin on the leg, the abscess will usually burst before it becomes large. On the body however, it is possible for an abscess to become very large before it bursts – the resulting wound will often be a huge hole in the skin. We had a cat recently that had a hoe about 10cm in diameter where and abscess had formed.


Apart from the abscess damage itself, the infection and pain associated with it will make your cat feel ill. The signs can include; pain on stroking, poor or no appetite, sleeping a lot and hiding, and a high temperature. Any cat that is out of sorts deserves to be examined and any cat that does not eat for more than 3 days is at risk of life threatening illness.


All in all an abscess is a nasty affair – but there is an even nastier risk that the fighting cat has exposed itself to. Feline Immunodeficiency Virus or FIV is transmitted between cats almost exclusively while fighting. Direct inoculation of a cat that is bitten with saliva or blood can result in transmission of the virus. Once in your cats body, it is possible that the immune system can fight it off, but it is also likely that it cannot – the result being you cat carries the virus and at some time in the future will develop FAIDS – Feline Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome. This disease results from the cat’s immune system not being able to fight infections. It seldom kills a cat quickly; they simply become more and more susceptible to recurrent infections, requiring ongoing antibiotics and veterinary attention.


It is estimated that between 14 – 29% of healthy cats in New Zealand can carry this virus – we certainly see significant numbers of cats with it at Clutha Vets.


How to protect your cat?

 There are several things you can do:-

  • If you are getting a new kitten, consider getting it vaccinated against FIV.
  • Keep your cat indoors at night – most serious cat fights happen between the hours of dawn or dusk. Training your cat to be inside at night will reduce the risk of fighting.
  • Have your cat neutered. Although this will not stop them from fighting, it will reduce the number of fights they get into.