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        how to get one
           The Feline Leukemia Virus exists in all felines, wild and domestic, in all parts of the world. It is spread from parents to kittens and from cat to cat via biting, scratching, breeding, sharing litter boxes and perhaps is vectored by biting insects like fleas and mosquitoes.

           There is a vaccine for Feline Leukemia, which is appropriate for cats that go out or are exposed to outside cats. The vaccine is given twice initially at a two to four weeks interval and then yearly. The shots are optional for indoor, isolated cats. Even cats vaccinated against the Feline Leukemia virus should not cohabitate with Feline Leukemia positive cats as eventually the vaccine becomes overwhelmed by the constant exposure to viral particles in the environment.

           All cats should be tested for Feline Leukemia and the F.I.V. virus, which is Feline Aids before they commingle to avoid contagion.

           Research indicates that 60 to 80% of the cats that become infected by the Feline Leukemia virus will develop a Feline Leukemia related disease within two years. Twenty to forty percent of the cats can live with the virus for prolonged periods without sickening. These cats serve as a reservoir of the virus and can infect negative cats.

The Feline Leukemia Virus commonly causes the following diseases:

1. Bone Marrow Suppression Anemia

           Symptoms: Malaise, paleness, weakness and inappetance.

2. Lymphosarcoma (Lymphatic Cancer)

           Symptoms: Those above plus enlarged Lymph nodes, skin masses, vomiting and/or diarrhea and increased respirations.

3. Feline Infections Peritonitis

           Symptoms: Swollen abdomen, fever, inappetance, progressive lethargy and increased respirations.

4. Leukemia

           Symptoms: Same as number one.

5. Assorted Immune Suppression Related Diseases

           Like Toxoplasmosis, Hemobartinella, persistent infections, and recurrent infections.

           Because of the multiplicity of symptoms of these diseases, Feline Leukemia positive cats should be rechecked every three to six months. Many of the signs are subtle and can only be picked up in a physical examine or via blood tests.

           A very small percentage of cats can test positive and later negative for Feline Leukemia. We don’t understand how these cats throw off the virus. There are various tests we use. The most common test is very sensitive and can give false positive results. So we sometimes use a different test to confirm or rule out the virus. There is also a one to three month latent period after exposure when a cat can test negative, especially if there was a chance of exposure, so sometimes it is prudent to retest a Negative cat three months later.

           So that you are not frightened we should point out that the cats we test are approximately 97% Negative, but remember any new cat coming into your home should be tested at least once for FELK and the Feline Aids Virus. Contrary to popular belief there is no human health risk from the Feline Leukemia Virus.


The Cat Practice is located at 145 W 24th Street on the 3rd floor. Phone: 212-677-1401 Fax: 212-677-2088