FeLV / FIV Cat Questions

What is FeLV?

CLICK HERE for info from Alley Cat Allies. In addition, please visit our page on FeLV HERE.

What is FIV?

CLICK HERE for information from Alley Cat Allies. In addition, please check out our page on FIV found HERE.

Should I test cats in my feral cat colony for FeLV / FIV?

FeLV Testing Is Not Recommended for Community Cats Alley Cat Allies does not support testing community cats for FeLV. In addition to low rates of disease, low likelihood of transmission between adult cats, and poor viability of the virus, the cost of testing is substantial. We believe that funds are more effectively used when invested in providing spay and neuter services. Moreover, FeLV tests can provide inconclusive results:

  • A cat in the initial stage of FeLV infection may test negative.
  • A cat exposed to FeLV may test positive during the transient phase of the infection and then test negative if the virus is overcome.
  • Tests are not 100 percent accurate and can yield false positive results.
More info can be found HERE.

Do you have information on how to manage FIV / FeLV?

An excellent guide to FIV / FeLV management from the American Association of Feline Practitioners can be found HERE. In addition, because FIV-infected cats can live for years with no symptoms, treatment may not be necessary until signs suggest that the disease is progressing. Secondary infections are common in the advanced stages of FIV infection due to the progressive weakening of the immune system. Issues can vary from mild to serious and will be treated on a case-by-case basis. Certain issues that can occur with advanced FIV, such as dental infections and tumor development, may need to be managed with surgery. Cats with severe dental disease may require full-mouth extractions (removal of all of the teeth) in order to alleviate the pain caused by gingivitis and other oral issues. Your veterinarian may also recommend a special dietary plan to manage your cat’s specific health issues. Any new cats that come into your household should be tested for FIV. If a cat tests positive, it does not mean that you can’t bring your new cat into your home. The risk of an FIV-positive cat passing the disease to other indoor cats is considered to be very low. Recent evidence suggests that FIV rarely spreads between indoor cats who are housed together, even through grooming and sharing of food and water bowls. An FIV-positive result will mean that your cat will need to live an indoor-only lifestyle to avoid getting into fights with other cats and spreading the disease further. Remember that cats with FIV can live long and healthy lives, and euthanasia is not usually called for when a cat is diagnosed with FIV.

Can my cat test positive for FeLV / FIV and then later test negative?

Absolutely. Especially in kittens under 16 weeks old, a false positive is hiughly possible due to the antibodies ingested from nursing kittens from the mother. In addition, if a cat was given a FeLV vaccine, they are likely to test positive for FeLV even though do not have the disease. One positive test result (especially on the in-house SNAP test), is not enough to confirm a FeLV infection. Any positive test should be confirmed with another type of test, and repeated in 30-60 days.

What are the signs and symptoms of FeLV?

During the early stages of infection, it is common for cats to exhibit no signs of disease at all. However, over time—weeks, months, or even years—the cat's health may progressively deteriorate or be characterized by recurrent illness interspersed with periods of relative health. Signs can include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Slow but progressive weight loss, followed by severe wasting late in the disease process
  • Poor coat condition
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Persistent fever
  • Pale gums and other mucus membranes
  • Inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) and mouth (stomatitis)
  • Infections of the skin, urinary bladder, and upper respiratory tract
  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Seizures, behavior changes, and other neurological disorders
  • A variety of eye conditions
  • In unspayed female cats, miscarriage of kittens, or other reproductive failures

What are the signs and symptoms of FIV?

Symptoms usually occur due to the body’s decreased ability to develop a normal immune response against infections. They may include:

  • Recurrent minor illnesses, especially with upper respiratory and gastrointestinal signs
  • Mild to moderately enlarged lymph nodes
  • Inflammation of the gums and oral tissues
  • Upper respiratory tract disease—including inflammation of the nose and eyelid tissues
  • Eye disease—including inflammation of the cornea and iris, and glaucoma
  • Long-term (chronic) kidney insufficiency and disease
  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Long-term, nonresponsive or recurrent infections of the external ear and skin resulting from bacterial or fungal infections
  • Fever, weight loss and weakness, especially in advanced stages of FIV disease
  • Cancer—particularly lymphoma, which is a cancer of the white blood cells formed in lymphoid tissues throughout the body
  • Nervous system abnormalities—including abnormal sleep pattern, behavioral changes (such as pacing and aggression) and changes in vision and hearing

How is FeLV and FIV spread from cat to cat?

FIV is mainly passed from cat to cat through deep bite wounds, the kind that usually occur outdoors during aggressive fights and territorial disputes-the perfect reason to keep your cat inside. Another, less common mode of transmission is from an FIV-infected mother cat to her kitten. FeLV is passed from one cat to another through saliva, blood, and to some extent, urine and feces.

How long can a cat who tests positive for FeLV or FIV live?

Felv/FIV cats can live 22 years (*just as long as cats who test *negative* for FeLV/FIV)