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Feline Leukemia

by Karen Podella ... (thank you Karen)

Feline Leukemia is a virus which is specific to cats only. It attacks and weakens the cat's immune system, causing the cat to become susceptible to diseases which it might otherwise be able to fight off. FELV is a serious infection that can strike at any age. Feline Leukemia is spread through bodily fluids, saliva, tears, blood, urine and feces. It can also be transmitted from mother cat to kitten. Cat-to-cat contact is required, because the virus is inactivated by warmth and drying.

Any new feline entering a home with cats already present should be tested and quarantined for a period of 15 to 30 days, or until test results have come back negative. A kitten that has come from a multi-cat environment, that has lived outside or has an unknown history should be tested.

Common signs of Feline Leukemia include weight loss, depression, lethargy, repeat persistent infections, fevers, anemia, and swollen glands. If your cat shows any of these signs, please DO NOT hesitate to contact a veterinarian immediately!

Vaccines are somewhat controversial. If your cat does NOT go outside and is not exposed to new cats coming in, you might want to do some research on vaccines and talk to others before making the decision to vaccinate. If you cat or kitten comes from a clean colony, meaning the parents tested negative and cats in that cattery or colony are tested yrly or semi-annually and found to be negative, then your kitten will also be negative. Unless "directly" exposed to a FELV positive cat, or has been outside, in a fight with another cat and has a bite wound, or may go in and out, you might consider not vaccinating.

Kittens can be vaccinated twice starting at 9 to 10 weeks, with a second dose given 3 to 4 weeks later. Boosters should follow at their annual exam. Any ferral at taken in as a rescue should always be tested and cats that go in and out are at very high risk of infection. 98% of all ferrals trapped locally have tested positive or have high titers showing exposure to the virus. These high risk situation require vaccinations for prevention of FeLV.

Always discuss vaccination issues with your veterinarian. Ask questions. Check multiple sources then make an informed choice for your feline friend.