Feline Leukemia

Feline Leukemia Virus or FeLV for short is a severe feline illness that all cat lovers must be aware of right away. The virus is known to cause many serious health issues like immune deficiency, cancer, and blood disorders. FeLV can affect any cat and comes in two stages: Primary Viremia, an early stage, and Secondary Viremia, a normally irreversible stage. Some cats have an immune system which can avoid the growth of the virus to the secondary stage though.

How FeLV Spread?

The virus is most commonly spread by wide contact between two kittens or cats. The virus lives in his bodily fluids and can be transmitted from one to another during mutual grooming, through shared food dishes or from a bite. An infected mother is also able to pass this virus to her kittens before they’re born. But, once outside of the cat’s body, FeLV can just survive for a few hours.

All felines are at risk for leukemia virus. In the US, about 2 to 3 percent are infected with this virus. However, numbers rise to 13% when dealing with sick or young cats. Kittens are at a higher risk for contracting this virus because they have weak immune system compared to adult cats.

What are the symptoms of FeLV?

When a feline is infected with this virus, it’s common for them not to show any signs at all. But, as the virus develops in due course, the health of the cat starts to deteriorate slowly. Signs of leukemia in a cat are:

  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Serious illness
  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Lack of red or pink color in the gums
  • Progressive weakness

How can this virus be diagnosed?

Once your feline is showing signs which are related to this virus, make sure to bring her to a vet for a blood test. There are two kinds of blood tests which detect the virus, first, are ELISA that can detect both primary and secondary stages. Another test is the IFA that identifies the secondary stage.

How to Prevent Your Cat from Contracting FeVL?

  • Since all felines are at risk for this virus, the only correct way to keep your cat safe is to avoid exposure to cats with this leukemia virus.
  • Keep your felines inside your home. If they are outside you are not aware of what cats they are coming into contact with.
  • Ensure you are just bringing infection free felines into a home with uninfected felines
  • If you have a feline which is already infected by this virus, you need to ensure to keep your uninfected felines away from it. Never allow them to utilize the same litter box or food bowl.
  • Consider getting the feline leukemia virus vaccination for the uninfected cats.


Keep in mind that the feline leukemia virus is an extremely serious disease for felines. So, you need to ensure that you keep your feline secured and protected from it and bring it to the vet once you see any of the signs mentioned above.

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