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November 4, 2011 at 7:39 AMComments: 3 Faves: 0

Does My Cat Have Feline Leukemia?

By Victoria Swanson More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the Paws & Awws Blog Series

Feline Leukemia is a very serious disease in the cat world that all cat owners should be aware of. My cats have been very lucky to not contract this virus. As indoor and outdoor cats, they are vaccinated to protect them against this disease. What exactly is feline leukemia though? Here I'll explain how it's transmitted, the symptoms it causes, preventative measures, and treatment options.

What is Feline Leukemia (FeLV)?

FeLV is a virus that is a form of cancer of the blood cells, which is called lymphocytes, (leukemia). It impairs the cat's immune system and can be deadly.

Kittens can actually be born with this virus contracted by their mother in the uterus or through nursing. However, the most common way a cat contracts this virus is contact with another cat that is a carrier via passing saliva.

So a simple cat bite, hissing (which sometimes causes "spitting"), sneezing, grooming of each other, sharing a litter box, food or water dish are all different ways a cat can possibly contract this deadly disease from another cat.

FeLV is not transmissible to either humans or dogs.

Does My Cat Have Feline Leukemia?

The signs and symptoms of this disease can vary. Common symptoms include:

  • Loss of Appetite
  • Poor Coat Condition
  • Skin Infections
  • Bladder Issues
  • Respiratory issues
  • Swollen Lymph Nodes
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Oral and Gingivitis issues

If your cat is not behaving like themselves or you see a change in their body, take them to your vet immediately to be tested for this disease.

What Can They Do for Cats with Feline Leukemia?

There are a few different ways things can go once a cat is infected:

  • Cats can be carriers of FeLV, however never get sick themselves, but they can infect other cats or their offspring by being a carrier.
  • Cats can develop immunity and become resistant to future issues of this virus.
  • Their immune system is severely compromised. In this case death is usually inevitable.

Unfortunately there is no none cure for this disease. However, there is treatment aid for this virus infection. The treatment is called Lymphocyte T-Cell Immune Modulator.

How Can I Prevent my Cat From Getting Feline Leukemia?

All cats should be tested for this virus, so if you haven't had yours tested, now is the time. The early the condition is caught, the better chance they have!

As for prevention, vaccination is the number one way of preventing your cat from contracting the FeLV virus. As with all medication and vaccines, your cat could experience side effects to the vaccine.

Keeping your cat vaccinated and indoors will help to drastically reduce the chances of your cat contracting this deadly disease. Talk to your vet about vaccinating your kitten or cat.

If you ever bring home a stray or unknown cat, you should quarantine them away from your other cats until you can have them tested for the virus.

Consult your vet if you are worried if your kitten or cat could be a carrier or has come in contact with a cat that could possibly be a carrier. The sooner you do the better chance your cat might have at fighting this disease.


Cat Channel - Feline Leukemia Survey Reveals Disconnect

Vet Cornell - Feline Leukemia

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  • My indoor Siamese adult cat.. Licks all of her fur underneath her belly....She nips at her exposed skin....She is aggressive and temperamental.....Is there a reason for her licking herself, like that? and is there some way to help her, possibly with medication ?
    Thank You,

  • Hi Wanda: I would talk with your vet immediately to rule out any medical issues. You don't mention how long she has been doing this for? Siamese can be very temperamental. She could have fleas or an allergy for the possible reasons of why she is licking and nipping at herself. If your vet finds something medically wrong, medication will definitely help and they should guide you through that. If she is doing it because of anxiety (which is very common), look into the Vetinox products link attached here ( for a more natural approach to help relieve her issue. Anxiety can be caused by a change in her environment, have you married, divorced, moved, changed hours at work, did you add a new pet, any of these things can shift a happy cat to a cat that has anxiety? Please first visit your vet....keep me posted and I hope your cat recovers quickly....

  • Wanda - Another thing to keep in mind might be allergies. A lot of cats are allergic to corn and wheat used in most generic cat foods. We watched a cat that had this problem. Definitely see your vet, but also consider switching to a cat food free of common allergens. If you visit a pet store, a clerk should be able to point you in the right direction!

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