Feline leukemia is the leading cause of death in cats. It is almost always fatal in infected cats. This disease attacks the cat’s immune system, much the same as the AIDS virus attacks humans. Some signs of the disease may include colds, stomach problems, sores, anemia, respiratory distress and weight loss. A cat with feline leukemia may not be able to ward off other diseases.
Feline leukemia is contagious from one cat to another and can be transmitted through saliva, urine, feces, biting, licking or from a pregnant cat to her kittens. Some cats will show no signs of distress, other show listless behavior or may become ill easily from other non-related diseases. Cats of all ages are susceptible to feline leukemia. Some cats can become immune to this disease, while others develop a latent form of the disease that can show itself at any time. A cat will not necessarily die if it has been diagnosed with feline leukemia. This simply means that the cat has been exposed to the virus. There is no indication that the disease can be transmitted to humans or dogs.
A simple blood test by your veterinarian can determine if your cat has the disease or has been exposed to feline leukemia. Vaccinations can be given to help offer protection. A series of injections will provide initial protection with yearly boosters. As many as 80% of all cats vaccinated will remain healthy and unaffected.
If your cat has died as a result of feline leukemia, it is considered safe to bring another cat into the house after 30 days. All items used by the original cat should be cleaned thoroughly using a chlorine bleach solution, this includes food and water dishes, bedding areas and the litter box. Better still, they should be discarded and new items purchased. The floor and carpeting should be cleaned as well.
If infected, a cat may live for a number of years, but it is still contagious to other cats. If you have only one cat and it stays indoors, you pet may live for a number of years even though diagnosed positive. It may, however, contract some other illness as a result of a weakened immune system.
To help prevent feline leukemia you can minimize contact with other cats. Make sure that any new additions to the household are checked by a veterinarian before contact with other cats. Most importantly, make sure your cats are vaccinated against feline leukemia.