FelV - A Cat's Disease

What is FeLV? It is a submicroscopic organism (virus) that is associated worldwide with the illness and death of more cats than any other infectious disease. This virus is spread through the urine, saliva, and nasal secretions of infected cats or through the milk of infected nursing mother cats.

How can your cat get it? If a nursing mother cat has it, it can be passed on through her milk. If you cat is an outside cat, it can get it by being bitten by an infected cat, by somehow getting in contact with some urine of an infected cat or by rubbing against an infected cat and picking up some of the cat’s saliva or nasal secretions. An infected cat can pass it on just by licking or grooming a healthy cat.

Outside cats are more susceptible to catching the disease than indoor cats as they are out and about visiting many areas that could be contaminated or they are in contact with other infected cats.

If you adopt a cat from a shelter or a cattery it is wise to have it tested for FeLV before exposing the cat to the rest of your cats. Whenever you add a new cat to your household have it tested as even a healthy looking cat can be a carrier and the disease will spread.

How can you prevent the disease? By getting your cat vaccinated as a kitten and then getting the booster shot after one year.

It is a disease that young cats are more apt to get, cats as they grow older seem to be much more resistant to the initial infection that is why getting the vaccine with the kitten shots is so important.

What is this disease and what does it do? First of all you actually need a blood test to see if you cat has it or not. FeLV is a disease that can remain dormant for months and even years. Some cats remain healthy carriers for many years while others will show signs of the disease much sooner. Some of the signs are jaundice, which is a yellow discoloration of the skin, whites of the eyes and mucous membranes. A loss of appetite and apparent weight loss, lethargy and depression, chronic skin sores and a change in bowel habits such as constant diarrhea or constipation are also some of the signs.

FeLV is a slow-acting organism that is in the same virus family as FIV (feline immunodeficiency). If your cat has a strong immune system the virus will get into the blood stream and other tissues and stop at that. If the immune system is not strong enough it will progress into the bone marrow and will infect other cells and such diseases as lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system), leukemia and anemia will occur.

If your cat is diagnosed with FeLV it is not a death sentence as it is possible for your cat to develop an effective immune response to it. It will be necessary to have your cat tested again after a period of about three months and the chance of the virus being gone is a possibility.

Should the virus not be gone it is important to keep your cat away from the other cats in your household to prevent the disease from spreading. The cat should be kept indoors, fed a high quality nutritionally balanced diet and you should keep in contact with your veterinarian regarding any changes in your cat’s behavior or condition.

Preventing this disease can be easily done by getting your kitten/kittens their necessary kitten shots starting at eight weeks of age, this is known as preventative medicine and is worth its weight in gold.