Feline Leukemia Virus

Cats are sometimes born with Feline Leukemia or Feline Immunodeficiency, or can contract either of them at any time after birth, through means of intimate contact with infected cats (Felv) or bite wounds (FIV). Neither of these diseases can be cured, yet testing for them is recommended for all cats six weeks and older when they are first brought into a household. This is because, given knowledge of your cat’s feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus status, we can help you make informed choices for the management of your cat’s health.

Note that these illnesses may remain dormant, not causing any medical issues until years after birth or infection. Therefore, we also recommend that every sick cat is tested for both diseases, even if they have previously been tested. Common signs of the disease include anemia and difficulty in fighting off even relatively minor further infections (as these viruses attack the cat’s immune system).

Vaccinations which prevents new infection is available for feline leukemia. We consider vaccination against feline leukemia “optional” for owners of indoor cats, and due to the many dangers which outdoor living can pose, we recommend all cats live strictly indoors. Owners of cats who go out at all, including by occasionally escaping, or in “my yard only” need to understand that they have an outdoor cat. It is incredibly easy and common for cats to escape from their owner’s yard and return before the owner can tell the difference. Yet this short span of time is still enough to potentially expose your cat to feline immunodeficiency. However, if you do make the choice to let your cat go outside, we strongly recommend he or she is vaccinated against feline leukemia.

While a vaccine for FIV currently exists, it is not recommended, and currently unavailable in North America. While scientists continue to work on creating a safe, effective vaccine for FIV, current recommendations are to limit your cat’s exposure to other cats that may be infected. FIV positive cats can be co-housed with FIV negative cats, provided that they live in a “stable” environment where the cats do not fight with each other, or create puncture wounds which may transmit the disease.