The is Miss Petunia who was adopted
I just rescued a cat which the vet says is about 1 year old. When he performed the FeLV test it came back positive. I was determined to adopt this cat which I named Tabitha (she’s a tortoise shell) and asked him to continue with his routine check up.
She was spayed and she is recovering nicely. She also had a bad case of ear mites for which she has drops for 14 days but she is still shaking and wanting to scratch.
Before her diagnosis she had scratched one side of her face raw. I have been applying polysporin and with the ear drops I hope she will find some relief soon. She is still wearing the protective cone which I know she dislikes.
I have two other cats which I will now need to have tested for this virus. In the meantime while Tabitha is healing, she is in isolation in a room apart from the other cats.
With time hopefully she will be able to have access to the entire house. My goal is to make her life as comfortable as possible.
What are adoptable FeLV cats, exactly?
Lets look at the disease first.Feline leukemia virus (FELV or feline leukemia) was first described by W. Jarret in 1964 at the University of Glasgow. There is very good evidence that this virus is quite ancient. It may have evolved over the last 10,000,000 years.
It is a retrovirus. A accurate explanation of ‘retrovirus’ is beyond the purpose of this article. However, if you want to read more try Wikipedia. An example of a retrovirus in humans is AIDS. FeLV can be beaten by the cat’s immune system. If not, it can kill. There is no cure.
How do cats get FeLV?
FELV is released from the body and transmitted between infected cats usually by transfer of saliva and/or nasal secretions when e.g. eating from the same bowl or, less often, through urine, faeces, and milk from infected cats. Lots of evidence tells us it can’t be transmitted to humans or dogs from cats.
Examples of when transmission takes place:
- bite wound
- mutual grooming
- shared litter box
- shared feeding
- mother to kittens before and after birth
Evidence tells us that kittens under 4 months of age get it more easily. By 8 months of age they are more able to beat the virus. So, keeping young kittens indoors will help stop transmission to the kitten.
How many cats are infected?
About 0.5% of pet cats are infected with FeLV (source Wikipedia). The Berkeley East Bay Humane Society says that 3% are infected in the USA. As there are about 7.7 million pet cats in the UK that makes about 385,000 with FeLV. More than 35% of pet cats have been exposed to FeLV but the cat’s immune system has successfully dealt with it (prevented it progressing and made the cat immune to it).
What does FELV do to the cat?
It suppresses the immune system (the cats inbuilt system to fight disease is weakened) in the same way as AIDS in humans. The symptoms include:
- generally feeling unwell
- blood in the stool
- recurring infections
- decreased appetite
- decreased stamina
- excessive drinking and urinating
- low grade fever
- jaundice (yellowing skin and white of eyes)
How is it diagnosed?
There are 2 tests (this page expands significantly on these tests):
- enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).
- immunofluorescence assay (IFA) also called the Hardy, or slide test
The immune system fights it, but how does this fight progress?
- after 16-18 weeks into the disease, about 40% of cats kill off the virus – of these 16% fight it off after minimal exposure and 24% later on in the disease.
- about 20% of cats keep the virus in check (these are adoptable FeLV cats) until the cat becomes stressed when the virus can emerge.
- about 30% die having had the disease from start to finish (by my calculation this means 115,500 die of the disease – some die within a few months while some have no symptoms for up to 4 years (these are adoptable FeLV cats).
- death is caused by cancer of the blood or bone marrow (leukemia), cancer, or a failure of the bone marrow to respond to the increased need for red blood cells (red blood cells carry oxygen around the body).
- The Berkeley East Bay Humane Society says FeLV cats can live from months to years after being diagnosed. 80 to 90% of infected cats die within 3.5 yrs of being diagnosed.
What medicines are there?
There is no cure and no medicines to relieve symptom. Vaccines are available but it is not clear how good they are.
Adoptable FeLV cats
As mentioned the adoptable FeLV cats are those who have the disease but the disease has not lead to symptoms that are immediately life threatening. In many cases, FeLV positive cats can lead a comfortable life through the combined efforts of the owner and veterinarian. This means that they are adoptable FeLV cats.
How do I go about adopting adoptable FeLV cats?
Here are some links to websites that help make arrangements to adopt these vulnerable animals that need genuine love and care. Bemikitties is a website which sets out to help cats (a fine and true goal) and who operate a classified adverts section where people can post and advert for the re-homing of adoptable FeLV cats. They provide good advice as well. It is USA based.
Another USA based adoption website for cats is Pets with Disabilities . It posts classified adverts and rehouses pets with various disabilities including adoptable FelV cats. It is based about 50km from Washington.
Cat Adoption Team (CAT) is a NorthWest Pacific cat shelter, situated 20 miles south of Portland USA.
After a considerable search I failed to find a UK website where people with adoptable FELV cats can post an advertisement. Although I am sure there are some out there.
What Other Visitors Have Said
Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page…
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I have used the following sources for information and pictures:
Did you find this article useful and interesting? Can it be improved? Please tell me in a comment. I am always keen to improve the site for animal welfare and reader enjoyment.
- Wikipedia (90% came from this information source)
- Animal Health Channel
- Berkeley East Bay Humane Society (USA figures)
- A Dutch Animal Clinic Dierenkliniek Wilhelminapark, Utrect (photograph of the cat’s eye).