Everything You Need to Know about Cat Leukemia

Posted on by Heath Gillian


The terms cat leukemia or feline leukemia may sound scary. For most people the word leukemia translates to life threatening, or incurable. But the truth is, cat leukemia can be prevented and thanks to the new, improved preventative measures is not the threat it once was.

Unlike the leukemia suffered by cancer stricken adults, cat leukaemia or FeLV is able to spread like a virus from one cat to another. The illness, which attacks the body’s white blood cell development and immune system, is contagious and can travel through salvia, feces, blood or urine.

Mr Slinky.--Champion Snowshoe cat with puurrfe...
Image via Wikipedia

Though feline leukemia was more common in the past some studies still show that at least 2% of all cats are infected with the FeLV virus. Some cats are more prone to contracting the disease than others. Cats who are very young, old, injured or kept with other infected felines are the most susceptible.

The symptoms of FeLV can vary but the most common include lethargy, vomiting, poor coat condition, enlarged lymph nodes, fever, pale gums, diareah and seizures. Female cats that have contracted the illness while pregnant will experience miscarriage or still birth litters.

In the past cat leukemia was a major concern for shelters and animal rescue associations due to the fact that the illness spread rapidly when cats were kept in the same, crowded vicinity and participated in communal grooming. Now, there are preventative measures which can be taken to protect a cat from the disease such as clinical vaccinations.

Other ways to prevent the spread of cat leukemia include:

  • Limiting your cat’s time outdoors and restricting them to a smaller space such as a backyard. By not allowing your cat to wander freely there is less chance of them being bitten or groomed by an infected cat.
  • If you own multiple cats try to promote separate feeding times and dishes. By not sharing dishes you can severely decrease the chance of FeLV being spread through saliva.
  • Discourage rough play and biting. Cat leukemia can be spread easily through biting and blood, to prevent this try distracting your cat with other things such as toys or food.
  • Check with your vet or pet sitting service whether or not they insist on vaccinations for boarded animals.

If you are concerned about cat leukemia and would like more information contact your vet for vaccination procedures and costs. If treated quickly even cats who have contracted the disease can be treated and continue to live a long, happy and healthy life.

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