Feline Luekemia Virus (FeLV)

FeLV is shed in the saliva, milk, urine, and feces of infected cats and is easily transmitted to other cats by either biting or casual contact (e.g. shared water bowls, grooming, nose- nose contact through screen doors, or contact with saliva, urine, or feces on the grass). Once infected, the cat may initially develop a fever and enlarged lymph nodes, then 2-4 weeks later may become anemic (low red blood cell count) and thrombocytopenic (low platelet count). Loss of appetite and weight loss may also be noted. If the cat mounts a successful immune response, they may fully recover, never show symptoms, and not become carriers of the disease. However, those that test positive for the disease are carriers and are likely to go on to develop symptoms related to anemia (low red blood cell count) and immunodeficiency (weakened immune system). These cats also have a high likelihood of developing cancer, such as lymphoma, and have a shortened life span (many die within 3 years if diagnosis). All kittens should be tested for FeLV and then vaccinated if they are at high risk of infection. At risk kittens and cats are those that go outdoors (even on screened-in porches), those that live in areas where there is a high feral cat population, or live in a home with a FeLV positive cat. If the cat is strictly indoors, then it is at low risk of contracting the infection and do not necessarily need the vaccine. If you have a new kitten, and are unsure if it will be allowed outdoors later in life, it is best to have the kitten vaccinated by a veterinarian and provide them with the protection early on, then discontinue later if the cat remains “indoor-only”.