Feline Leukemia Virus, also known as FELV, is a relatively common virus that affects cats. Some of them acquire the infection at a very young age when they are born to a mother who already has the condition. Others contract it from coming into contact with the saliva of an infected cat. The majority of cats who have the condition live normal and full lives but do need certain environmental and health requirements to do this.
A vet’s visit is needed to confirm that a cat has FELV. Normally this will involve a test for the condition, though routine tests are done on cats that come through animal shelters before being sent out for adoption. If you are buying a pedigree cat, then these tests should have been done or need to be done before finalising to ensure no presence of the virus, particularly if you are planning to breed the cat.
If you suspect your cat may have come into contact with an infected animal or want to have a routine test conducted, then get in touch with your vet. Signs of the virus include low energy, a fever and decreased appetite but these also refer to other conditions. In many cases, the cat’s immune system actually fights off the virus and while testing positive once, may later test negative after the immune reaction has killed the virus.
Most of the time, cats who have FELV don’t have many active symptoms that need management. But they can go into remissions and have flare-ups. The condition can also lead to other infections because it weakens the immune system as well as an immune system suppression and anaemia. It is sometimes connected with the occurrence of cancers.
Coping with the condition
Once you know that the cat has the condition, they may live for a number of years without any sign of it or may still fight it off. There is no cure for the virus but a vaccination can boost the chance of clearing the infection by boosting the immune system. Cats also get regular vaccinations from the age of eight weeks to reduce the chance of getting the condition.
Because their immune system can be compromised, checking for other conditions is important. This means even simple problems such as fleas, ticks and mites should be watched for and treated against as these can cause secondary infections.
Providing your cat with a stress free environment can help them fight off the condition and not succumb to secondary infections. They may also need more warmth than before so blankets in their basket or favourite sleeping place is advisable.
Feed your cat a good quality, balanced diet to further help them deal with the condition. Don’t use a homemade or raw diet for cats with this condition, as they are more susceptible to bacteria in their food than other cats. Also, maintain a high standard of hygiene around their food and litter boxes to ensure there is a reduced chance of an infection.
Because the disease has a short lifespan outside the body, you should keep your cat inside to stop them transmitting to other cats. If you handle another cat, make sure you have washed your hands first. If your cat isn’t neutered or spayed, you should do this as again they can pass the condition through reproduction to their kittens.