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What is Feline Leukemia Virus?

Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) is a transmittable virus that can severely depress a cat’s immune system; predisposing them to a variety of infections and diseases, including anemia, kidney disease and lymphoma. FeLV is most commonly transmitted through direct contact with an infected cat (mutual grooming, bites/scratches, sharing litterboxes and sharing food/water bowls) but can also be passed directly from an infected mother to her kittens in utero or through mother’s milk. Some infected cats are asymptomatic.

Others will show symptoms, but these can vary widely, depending on what particular infections/diseases the infected cat may be experiencing. Symptoms can include poor appetite, weight loss, poor coat condition, pale gums, lethargy, fever, upper respiratory infections, abscesses, vomiting/diarrhea, enlarged lymph nodes, changes in behavior, respiratory distress etc.

All kittens should be tested for FeLV infection at 6 months of age to ensure negative status (checking to make sure they did not contract the condition from their mother). Unvaccinated at-risk adult cats who are showing signs of illness should be tested for FeLV infection.

Is My Cat At Risk of Contracting Feline Leukemia?

FeLV-negative indoor cats who live with other FeLV-negative indoor cats are highly unlikely to contract disease.
FeLV-negative cats who live indoors with FeLV-positive cats are at risk of contracting disease.
Outdoor cats can easily contract disease from contact with other FeLV-positive cats outdoors.

Should I Vaccinate my Cat Against Feline Leukemia?

  1. At-risk cats, including indoor cats living with FeLV-positive cats, and outdoor cats, should be vaccinated against Feline Leukemia to reduce the risk of contracting disease.
  2. There is no cure for Feline Leukemia. Infected cats can experience debilitating or fatal illness. The cost of vaccination (generally about $30.00 per year for adult cats) far outweighs the risks of not vaccinating.

For more information about Feline Leukemia, refer to the Feline Leukemia Virus Information Site provided by the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.