Feline Leukemia Virus

Learn some of the basics on FeLV so you know what to look for...

Adopting a cat with Feline Leukemia Virus

Thursday, February 21, 2019 |

Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) is a common infectious disease in cats. Feral cat colonies, free roaming cats who come in contact with other cats, and multiple cat households are the most at-risk for this disease. It is transmitted through saliva, feces, milk and urine of infected cats, and requires close cat-to-cat contact. FELV cannot be transmitted to people, dogs or other animals.

All cats who come into NHS are tested for FeLV. However, cats with fighting wounds are more likely to have contracted the disease due to cat-to-cat contact. Those cats will go through multiple tests as the cat may not test positive for FeLV until 60 days after infection.  Some cats show mild symptoms while others show none.

Cats can live comfortably with FeLV, however at some point the disease will weaken the cat’s system enough to allow other infections to occur. These other diseases are often what cuts the cat’s lifespan short.

FeLV symptoms can include:

·       Fever

·       Loss of appetite

·       Weight loss

·       Lethargy

·       Poor coat or fur condition

·       Enlarged lymph nodes

·       Pale gums

·       Infections of the skin, bladder, and upper respiratory

·       Reproductive problems in un-spayed females


FeLV-associated diseases include:

·       Anemia

·       Liver disease

·       Intestinal disease and reproductive problems

·       Lymphoma or leukemia

·       Chronic respiratory infections

·       Chronic gingivitis and stomatitis (inflammation of the gums and mouth)

·       Poor healing of wounds and abscesses


There is no cure for FeLV. However, kitties with FeLV can live without symptoms for some time. Should you adopt a cat with FeLV, he should be the only cat or live with other FeLV cats. He should stay inside to prevent him from infecting others, and to keep him safe.  You can partner with your veterinarian to help your cat feel well for as long as possible, and to protect him from secondary infection. Together you can manage this condition and give your kitty a safe, healthy environment. In return, you will get the love of an animal that truly needs a caring home!

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