My cat ‘Fritz’ has been sickly lately and is not eating as usual. My neighbor told me her cat was recently diagnosed with Feline Leukemia. She said that it is similar to AIDS. Is this true? Should I be worried about it being contagious?
Feline Leukemia (FeLV) is a viral infection, which suppresses the immune system of cats leaving them unable to fight off infections. It can strike any breed of cat at any age and is usually transmitted by direct exposure to an infected cat via grooming, biting etc.
Although there is no cure for this deadly disease, about 70 per cent of infected cats recover from it with natural immunity whilst the remaining 30 per cent will develop serious illnesses including cancer within three years.
How do you know whether you pet has FeLV? Common warning signs are lethargy, dehydration, and poor appetite. However, the only way to check for infections is to have your veterinarian do a quick blood test. Because seemingly healthy cats may also harbour the disease, we recommend yearly testing for all high risk or outdoor pussycats.
Yes, FeLV is very similar to AIDS for cats; especially when found in combination with another fatal virus called Feline Immunodefienciency Virus (FIV).
Transmission to humans has never been documented but one should be aware that infected cats are predisposed to other secondary infections that may be passed to people, especially the very young, old or immunosuppressed.
As with most viral diseases, prevention is the key. All cats in Cayman should be vaccinated yearly for FeLV, regardless if an indoor or outdoor cat.
Keep in mind however, that even vaccination can’t always guarantee complete immunity so continue to protect your vaccinated cat by restricting contact with other cats/strays whenever possible. Test any new cat or kitten for FeLV before introducing it into your household.
Remember, prevention is the best way to keep your kitty healthy, happy (and purring!) for many years to come