We hear a lot about feline leukemia (FeLV) and wonder if it’s safe for infected cats to be around human babies and other household pets. The truth is that feline leukemia affects cats, not other animals or people. The same is true of feline immunodeficiency (FIV). There is no evidence that humans or other pets can be infected. It is possible, however, for an infected cat to transmit the disease to other cats.
As part of their first wellness check, kittens under six months of age will not be tested for these viruses. Mothers can pass virus antibodies to their young through feeding and grooming, causing a false positive.
How Do Cats Become Infected With FIV/FeLV?
Cats can become infected with FIV or FeLV in a few different ways, including:
- FIV is present in saliva. When one infected cat bites another and breaks the skin, FIV is transmitted.
- FeLV transmits through saliva, bites, grooming, and though rare, shared litter boxes. Kittens can become infected through feedings from an infected mother’s milk.
What Does a Positive Test For FIV/FeLV Mean For My Cat?
Though your cats may not show symptoms of infection, the virus can still be doing damage to their immune systems, making them vulnerable to other illnesses. A positive test for either virus will greatly increase the chances of cancers and will mean a shorter life for your pet.
How Is My Cat’s Health Affected By FIV/FeLV?
FIV—The FIV virus attacks healthy white blood cells and causes compromised immunity to other diseases. Infected cats are more likely to develop cancers and have a shortened life span of fewer than five years after diagnosis.
FeLV—Feline leukemia also attacks healthy blood cells leading to a compromised immune system, a higher risk of developing cancers, lymphoma, inflammation, nerve, and eye disease. FeLV is life-threatening, reducing the life expectancy of your pet to fewer than four years after diagnosis.
Are There Preventive Treatments for FIV/FeLV?
There is no preventive treatment for FIV. It is important to report signs of infection to your veterinarian to help treat subsequent illnesses that may develop from your cat’s weakened immune system. There is a vaccine to prevent FeLV, and is included in a regular vaccination schedule by your veterinarian.
What You Can Do To Prevent FIV/FeLV In Your Cats
While there are no preventive treatments for FIV, there are actions you can take to keep your cat safe:
- Vaccinate your cats against FeLV.
- Spay and neuter your cats. They’ll fight less and will not produce litters, decreasing the chances of infection once they are altered.
- Keep your cats inside. Outside cats are at greater risk for exposure from infected felines.
- Before you bring a new cat into your home, have them tested for FIV and FeLV.
We’re Here to Help You Help Your Pets Live Happy and Healthy Lives
At Wheaton Animal Hospital, our staff and veterinarians want to help you with health support through the life of your beloved pet. We are a Cat Friendly Practice®, so your cat will meet with our veterinarian in a stress-free environment.We offer links and resources, FAQs, and numerous pet care articles on our website. If you have additional questions or concerns about caring for your pet, please call us for a consultation at (630) 665-1500.