Tagged: “Caring for FeLV”

Thinking About Fostering or Adopting an FeLV+ Cat?

Thinking About Fostering or Adopting an FeLV+ Cat?

We at Orange Street Cats are thrilled to hear that you’re investigating fostering or adopting a FeLV+ cat. FeLV+ cats can live great lives. They deserve your love and affection as much as possible. Here are some things you should know about welcoming a FeLV+ cat into your home and keeping your cat healthy.

What is FeLV?

FeLV stands for “feline leukemia virus.” Despite its name, FeLV isn’t cancer. It’s a cat-specific virus that suppresses a cat’s immune system, which in turn makes a cat susceptible to illnesses that might not affect a FeLV- cat, including cancers, eye diseases, and stomatitis (inflammation of the mouth). It is estimated that 2-3% of cats nationally are FeLV+. In the Northeast, that figure is estimated at 2.9%.

How does a cat get FeLV?

The FeLV virus is transmitted via an infected cat’s saliva, urine, and feces, but it is not highly contagious, as the virus cannot live in the environment longer than a few hours. Cats can become infected through biting, grooming, mating, or sharing food, water, or litter boxes with a FeLV+ cat. Pregnant cats may transmit the virus to some or all of their kittens, although not all kittens born to a FeLV+ mother will contract the disease. Healthy adult cats are less susceptible to the virus; cats with weakened immune systems and kittens are more so.

FeLV Positive Cats

What does it mean to have a FeLV+ cat?

While FeLV+ cats may have shortened lifespans, adopting one means the same as adopting any other cat; companionship, affection, and joy for as long as the cat is part of your family. They require no special environment and can live safely with dogs, kids, and other FeLV+ cats. Ownership requires a commitment to regular vet care, a quality diet, and an indoor-only home, with an increased responsibility to monitor the cat’s health and behavior to ensure any illness is dealt with promptly. Most importantly, FeLV+ cats need someone who believes even a shortened life has value, and cats facing that possibility are as deserving of loving homes as any other cat.

What are the Symptoms of FeLV?

• Loss of appetite
• Weight loss
• Lethargy
• Fever
• Diarrhea
• Unusual breathing patterns
• Pale gums or yellow around the mouth and whites of the eye

Can FeLV-negative & FeLV-positive cats live together?

FeLV+ and FeLV- cats shouldn’t live in physical contact with each other, as the virus is transmissible among cats that groom each other and that share food, water, and litter boxes.

Can FeLV be cured?

There is currently no cure for FeLV, but your cat’s symptoms and secondary infections, like respiratory illnesses or dental problems, can be addressed.

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Is There a Vaccine?

A vaccine is available that is effective for older cats, but its efficiency is only 75-80%, depending on the vaccine. Therefore, it is recommended that FeLV+ cats are kept separate from FeLV- cats.

How is FeLV diagnosed?

FeLV is diagnosed through blood tests performed by a veterinarian. It takes more than one test to confirm a positive diagnosis.

How long will a FeLV+ Cat live?

Predicting the lifespan of any cat is almost impossible; it varies by cat as well as overall health and daily care. FeLV+ adults can live healthy lives for many years; a FeLV+ kitten may not survive more than one or two years.

FeLV Cat

How can I keep my FeLV+ Cat as Healthy as Possible?

• Keep all household cats indoors.
• Have all cats spayed/neutered.
• Don’t allow your cats to interact with stray cats.
• Have your cat examined by a vet every six months.
• Keep your cat up-to-date on routine vaccinations & preventatives, such as flea treatments.
• Treat illnesses promptly!
• Bring your cat to the veterinarian as soon as you notice he/she is not feeling well.
• Feed a high-quality diet and avoid raw diets due to the increased risk of bacterial infection.
• Discuss the use of dietary supplements with your vet.

The Bottomline?

FeLV+ cats can live great lives. They deserve your love & affection as much as possible. 

Orange Street Cats thanks Dr. Kelly L. Spence, DVM for her expertise and The Binky Foundation for their generous support of this educational campaign.

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