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San Diego Humane Society

Cats with FeLV

What should I know about adopting a cat with FeLV?

Feline Leukemia is a virus that infects cats. It can make them more susceptible to common illnesses and infections, and can also cause different cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia. There’s no cure, and the health of cats with FeLV will deteriorate over time. Although they often die within a few years of contracting the disease, it’s possible they can live many healthy years as well. Similar to FIV, FeLV can only spread to cats, not humans or other animals. This virus is only transmitted from cat-to-cat through grooming, sharing food bowls, litter boxes and toys, or fighting that involves biting. Because of the risk of spreading the virus, cats that are FeLV+ should be single cats or live with other cats who have FeLV. You can keep a cat with FeLV in a separate room from non-infected cats. It’s unlikely you would transmit the disease on your hands or clothing.

To help a cat put her best foot forward, we recommend you:

  • Keep your cat indoors, where there’s less exposure to germs and no danger of infecting other cats.
  • Take your cat to a veterinarian right away if she isn’t feeling well.
  • Visit your veterinarian twice a year to monitor eyes, gums, skin, lymph nodes and weight to catch any illness early.

Little-known facts about FeLV:

  • Cats can test positive for FeLV when they are fighting off the virus, so a retest 4 weeks later may come back negative.
  • Kittens and adult cats with weaker immune systems are the most at-risk, since healthy adult cats can usually fight off the virus.
  • Less than 2.5% of the North American feline population tests positive for either FIV or FeLV.

If you have more questions, please talk with your vet or you’re welcome to speak with one of ours.


Information on FIV Cats.

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