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Feline Leukemia (Cats) FAQ



What to do when your cat tests positive on Feline Leukemia

(dedicated to Oliver and countless other cats whose lives have been mercilessly shortened by this virus. We will all meet them again at the Rainbow Bridge.)

Written by Erin Miller [ ermiller@dgsys.com] with help from James Golczewski, PhD; Edwin Barkdoll, DVM-to-be; Cindy Tittle Moore; Jeff Parke, DVM; C.M. Newell, DVM; Barb French; Richard Kinoshita; and Ann Huber. Additional thanks to Wilf Leblanc, Dan Kozisek, Karen Kolling, Isako Honshino, Patty Winter, Harold Lemon, Jill Kronstadt, and many members of the Cat Fanciers' Internet Mailing List for their comments.

The purpose of this FAQ is to answer frequently asked questions about the Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV). The Feline Leukemia Virus is a virus which suppresses your cat's immune system. A cat that becomes infected with the virus becomes susceptible to many ailments or breakdowns in its system. The virus was somewhat inappropriately named because it is different than the disease Feline Leukemia. A cat that tests positive for the virus will not necessarily contract the disease Feline Leukemia. However, cats that do test positive for the virus are more likely to catch any one of a number of diseases including, but not limited to, leukemia, lymphoma or opportunistic infections. This FAQ is divided into two parts; the first consists of information every cat owner should know or should ask about the virus. The second part is information for people whose cats have tested positive for the virus.

-001. What is Feline Leukemia Virus and can I catch it?
Leukemia: 001. What is Feline Leukemia Virus and can I catch it?
-002. I've heard FELV is like AIDS. Can I catch AIDS or anything else from it?
Leukemia: 002. I've heard FELV is like AIDS. Can I catch AIDS or anything else from it?
-003. What is a retrovirus?
Leukemia: 003. What is a retrovirus?
-004. How is it transmitted?
Leukemia: 004. How is it transmitted?
-005. Will I infect my healthy cat if I pet an FeLV+ cat, then pet my cat?
Leukemia: 005. Will I infect my healthy cat if I pet an FeLV+ cat, then pet my cat?
-006. What does the virus do to a cat?
Leukemia: 006. What does the virus do to a cat?
-007. Is there a vaccine?
Leukemia: 007. Is there a vaccine?
-008. If I don't get my cat vaccinated, what are its natural defenses against the virus?
Leukemia: 008. If I don't get my cat vaccinated, what are its natural defenses against the virus?
-009. Is the vaccine expensive and how often do my cats need to be vaccinated?
Leukemia: 009. Is the vaccine expensive and how often do my cats need to be vaccinated?
-010. If I get my cat vaccinated, isn't there a chance that it will catch the virus from the vaccine?
Leukemia: 010. If I get my cat vaccinated, isn't there a chance that it will catch the virus from the vaccine?
-011. Is there any risk in getting my cats vaccinated?
Leukemia: 011. Is there any risk in getting my cats vaccinated?
-012. Do I have to get my cats vaccinated?
Leukemia: 012. Do I have to get my cats vaccinated?
-013. My cats are indoors-only. Why should I bother getting them vaccinated?
Leukemia: 013. My cats are indoors-only. Why should I bother getting them vaccinated?
-014. My cat is a purebred, and I've heard the vaccine should not be given to purebreds. The breeder I bought the cat from discourages getting the vaccine.
Leukemia: 014. My cat is a purebred, and I've heard the vaccine should not be given to purebreds. The breeder I bought the cat from discourages getting the vaccine.
-015. My cat gets sick after it gets vaccinations. Why should I put my cat through that?
Leukemia: 015. My cat gets sick after it gets vaccinations. Why should I put my cat through that?
-016. I already have a cat(s) and I found another which I want to bring home. What precautions should I take regarding FeLV (and other diseases)?
Leukemia: 016. I already have a cat(s) and I found another which I want to bring home. What precautions should I take regarding FeLV (and other diseases)?
-017. How is FeLV detected?
Leukemia: 017. How is FeLV detected?
-018. So some cats who test positive can later test negative?
Leukemia: 018. So some cats who test positive can later test negative?
-019. Is it possible for a cat to test negative when it really is positive?
Leukemia: 019. Is it possible for a cat to test negative when it really is positive?
-020. How long does a cat who tests positive have to live?
Leukemia: 020. How long does a cat who tests positive have to live?
-021. What are symptoms for which I should be on the lookout?
Leukemia: 021. What are symptoms for which I should be on the lookout?
-022. My cat recently passed away from FeLV. How long should I wait before getting another cat and are there any special precautions I should take?
Leukemia: 022. My cat recently passed away from FeLV. How long should I wait before getting another cat and are there any special precautions I should take?
-023. If your cat has tested positive
Leukemia: 023. If your cat has tested positive
-024. My cat has tested positive. Should it be put to sleep?
Leukemia: 024. My cat has tested positive. Should it be put to sleep?
-025. What will happen to my cat now that it has tested positive?
Leukemia: 025. What will happen to my cat now that it has tested positive?
-026. Although my cat has tested positive, it is healthy in all other respects. How can I prevent an FeLV-related disease from becoming active in its system?
Leukemia: 026. Although my cat has tested positive, it is healthy in all other respects. How can I prevent an FeLV-related disease from becoming active in its system?
-027. I have an FeLV+ kitten that I have decided to keep. Should I have it neutered/spayed?
Leukemia: 027. I have an FeLV+ kitten that I have decided to keep. Should I have it neutered/spayed?
-028. Should I continue to vaccinate my cat if it is FeLV+?
Leukemia: 028. Should I continue to vaccinate my cat if it is FeLV+?
-029. I have had several cats for a long time. One of them recently tested positive, but the others have not. Do I need to get rid of the FeLV+ one?
Leukemia: 029. I have had several cats for a long time. One of them recently tested positive, but the others have not. Do I need to get rid of the FeLV+ one?
-030. I have an FeLV+ cat and I want to find it a playmate. What should I do?
Leukemia: 030. I have an FeLV+ cat and I want to find it a playmate. What should I do?
-031. I have an FeLV+ cat that is otherwise healthy, I do not want to put it to sleep, but I can't keep it. What can I do?
Leukemia: 031. I have an FeLV+ cat that is otherwise healthy, I do not want to put it to sleep, but I can't keep it. What can I do?
-032. References
Leukemia: 032. References









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