Feline Leukemia Virus (FELV) is a relatively common viral disease in cats. Some of them acquire the infection at a young age when they are born to a female cat infected with FELV, while others contract it through direct contact with the saliva of an infected feline. Most cats with the feline leukemia virus live normally but will need a special environment and special health care needs, as well as being susceptible to some consequences after infection.
Part 1 of 4: Confirming the FELV
Step 1. Make sure the animal actually has FELV
Take the cat to a veterinarian to take a blood sample and perform sensitive and accurate tests.
- Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) testing will also be done.
- FELV tests (and FIV in cats six months of age or older) are routine in shelter animals, so results should be included in the animal's veterinary history when adopted.
- If you have found the cat or kitten or obtained it from someone else, viral tests should be carried out as soon as possible. They are even more important if he is going to live in a house where other cats already live.
Step 2. Look for signs of infection
Cats that have already come into contact with the virus may show signs of the initial viral infection, with not very specific signs, such as decreased appetite, energy and the presence of fever.
After the initial “viremia” (multiplication of the virus in the bloodstream), the immune system of some cats will try to fight and remove the virus completely, while others will already be in the “latent” stage of infection. At this stage, cats are usually asymptomatic and can remain so for many years
Step 3. Understand the complications that can arise if the cat does have FELV
Although the disease can be controlled and even go into remission, there is always the possibility that “outbreaks” will happen. The condition can lead to cancer, increased susceptibility to infections, suppression of the immune system, and severe anemia. In addition, it can also contribute to the appearance of reproductive abnormalities and arthritis in red blood cells.
Step 4. Be ready to take extra precautions and care measures when the feline has FELV
He can live for several years without the disease causing any major problems, if the care is adequate. In some cases, the cat can even become “negative” in relation to leukemia, that is, being able to live happily and for a long time.
Part 2 of 4: Caring for a Cat Diagnosed with FELV
Step 1. If the cat has not yet been vaccinated, it should be injected as soon as possible after recent exposure to the virus
There is no treatment or “cure” for the virus. FELV vaccines will greatly increase the chance that the cat will be able to reduce the infection if exposed to it, instead of suffering from the persistence of the virus, which can happen when the animal is not vaccinated. They can receive leukemia vaccines from eight weeks of age. Boosters are given every one to three years depending on the risk of exposure and the type of vaccine given.
Step 2. Give medication to treat worms, ear mites, ticks, fleas and any other “pest” that causes discomfort to the feline
However, it is important not to have treatment for all of this at once, or he will feel even worse. Take a week or two breaks before giving treatment for another problem.
Step 3. Keep the house clear of anything that might make the cat nervous
If the animal is scared or agitated by something in the house, it is necessary to remove the causative agent. Ask friends and relatives to be quiet and quiet inside the house.
The environment should be warm. Cats with leukemia may need more heat than healthy ones. Setting up a corner for him to sleep and putting comfortable covers over him is essential
Step 4. Feed the animal a balanced, high-quality diet
Better quality feeds will make you healthier and ensure your feline gets the key nutrients that cheap pet food doesn't have. Avoid adopting homemade or commercially prepared raw food diets, as cats with FELV have compromised immune systems, that is, they get sick more easily due to the entry of harmful bacteria in this way.
Never feed only fish as it is deficient in many nutrients
Step 5. Check that all objects used by the cat are clean
It is essential to keep litter boxes, food and water bowls and other objects clean. This means that daily hygiene must be carried out on them, without fail. If you are not around to do this, someone should help you.
Part 3 of 4: Limiting the spread of the virus
Step 1. Have good hygiene habits
The feline leukemia virus does not survive very long outside the infected cat, but it can be transmitted through hands, clothing, and other objects. Have good grooming habits and wash your hands when touching other cats, especially if you know one of them has FELV.
The virus does not infect humans
Step 2. Keep the cat indoors so as not to spread the disease or worsen the condition itself
FELV is transmitted through blood, saliva and excreta; cats that live outdoors are more likely to contract the condition due to the greater possibility of coming into contact with contaminated felines.
Cats transmit the virus by coming into contact with each other, by touching their snouts and by biting. Sharing the same food and water bowls can also transmit the infection
Step 3. Neuter the cat as soon as possible
This prevents the virus from being transmitted to newborns and the animal from transmitting the disease when crossing with another feline.
When taking the animal to be neutered, it is important to inform that it has the feline leukemia virus. In this way, veterinarians will take extra measures to ensure the cat's well-being and will carry out the proper sterilization of instruments and the operating room
Step 4. Take other cats to be examined
If they don't have FELV, get them vaccinated to prevent the disease. Know that vaccination does not necessarily mean that they can stay with the sick animal; wait a while before doing this for the vaccine to take effect. The veterinarian will be able to inform you of the exact details.
- The vaccine will be effective if administered before that the cat gets the disease.
- All cats living in homes should be boosted every three years.
Step 5. All puppies that live in the house must be vaccinated
If you have puppies in the same house as the sick cat, they need to be vaccinated when they are 12 to 14 weeks old. The second dose should be given three to four weeks later. As the puppy grows, he develops a natural resistance to FELV.
Step 6. Do as much as possible to keep healthy cats away from the sick
They might not like being separated from a friend, but this measure is the best option for everyone, at least until the virus is eliminated. Unfortunately, even with vaccination – which is not 100% effective – persistent contact with the sick feline can cause a healthy cat to contract the virus; the best thing for everyone is to avoid this possibility.
- Biting and scratching are common forms of transmission, but even friendly interactions such as touching each other's faces, sharing food, water bowls and making contact can lead to contamination.
- Don't adopt cats anymore. The fewer cats in the house, the less chance the virus will spread.
Part 4 of 4: Preventing Your Disease from Worsening
Step 1. Take the animal for routine checkups every six months
The longer the cat is infected with the feline leukemia virus, the greater the chance it will develop some types of eye, mouth, blood and cancer problems. Infected cats must undergo physical and blood tests twice a year, while more thorough blood, fecal and urinary tests need to be done at least once a year.
- The veterinarian will control the vaccinations the cat should receive, including rabies if necessary.
- It is essential to take him for exams every six months, even when he does not notice signs of illness.
Step 2. Veterinary visits should be calm, without stressing the cat
When the owner is worried and angry, the cat notices and is the same way. So keep calm, provide a comfortable and dark carrier cage for the feline during the journey, which should preferably not have a lot of traffic so that you don't stay in the car longer than necessary to get to and from the vet. Calm the animal when they arrive at the site and stay in his field of view whenever possible. There's no reason to worry; the cat is being taken care of by the veterinarian, who will do his best for the animal.
Step 3. Watch for changes in the cat's well-being
Any signs of illness should be checked by a veterinarian immediately, as early treatment is much more effective than if there is a delay in diagnosing the problem.
- Ask the veterinarian to provide a list of things the owner should be aware of regarding disease progression. When you notice anything that might be on the list, contact your veterinarian to discuss any changes needed to care for your cat in the best possible way.
- Be aware that you need to detect secondary infections quickly because a cat's compromised immune system makes it much more susceptible than cats that don't have the feline leukemia virus. Also, early treatment will always increase the chances of the disease being cleared more quickly.
Step 4. Make the cat as comfortable as possible
Play with it, pay attention when the animal asks and make sure it is always comfortable and happy.
- When the cat refuses to eat, try turning the eating habit into a "game." Toss pieces of feed across the floor for the cat to go after them; who knows he doesn't eat?
- The feline leukemia virus is most often spread in situations where many cats are present, such as in animal shows, in homes and in places where cats breed. Every place that houses cats will ask for proof of vaccination for owners who leave the animal, while “cat colonies” are usually run by animal protection groups, treating and putting them up for adoption. When adopting a kitten or cat from such organizations, ask about the animal's health history. The vaccines that have been administered and that must be done will be demonstrated.
- Although the virus that causes feline leukemia does not live for long outside the cat's body, it is essential to practice proper hygiene after touching or holding it in order not to accidentally transmit the disease to other cats. After contact with pets, always wash your hands.
- Avoid giving raw meat, eggs, unpasteurized products or chocolate to cats. Their immune system can be compromised by the feline leukemia virus, making them more susceptible to other health problems.
- Don't be afraid to touch the animal. There is no proof that the virus can be transmitted to humans.