Caused by a retrovirus that is very fragile outside of its host, Feline Leukemia can be found in domestic cats worldwide and is easily spread from cat to cat or from mother to offspring in utero or in their milk. Those most at risk include young kittens, cats in multi-cat environments, cats exposed to the outdoors, sick cats, and males – due to their wandering and fighting behavior. FeLV can complicate pregnancies and cause reproductive failure, anemia, tumor growth, malignancy, and immunodeficiency. FeLV infected cats are at a high risk of ultimately dying of the disease.
The FeLV vaccine, although not 100% effective, can reduce the risk of a cat developing FeLV if exposed by 75%. It is recommended for cats that go outdoors and multi-cat households where at least one cat goes outdoors.
It is highly recommended kittens be tested for FeLV. The test is an easy in-clinic blood test that can be done as early as 9 weeks of age. A negative test result indicates that the cat does not have virus in its blood at the time of the test, but if the cat was just exposed it could be too soon after exposure for the test to show a positive result.
In cats that have a high possibility of exposure to positive cats, we recommend isolating the cats and retesting 3-4 weeks later.