Why do cats get feline leukemia?

Feline leukemia is a viral disease that affects the immune system of cats. It is caused by the feline leukemia virus (FeLV), which is transmitted from cat to cat through saliva, blood, urine, feces, or milk. Cats can get infected by biting, grooming, sharing food or water bowls, or using the same litter box as an infected cat²³. Kittens can also get the virus from their mothers before or after birth.

Feline leukemia can have serious consequences for a cat’s health. It can cause cancer, blood disorders, and immune deficiency, making the cat more vulnerable to other infections. Some of the symptoms of feline leukemia include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Poor coat condition
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Pale or yellow gums
  • Inflammation of the gums and mouth
  • Infections of the skin, urinary bladder, and upper respiratory tract

There is no cure for feline leukemia, but there are ways to prevent and manage it. The best way to prevent the disease is to vaccinate cats at risk of exposure and keep them indoors, away from potentially infected cats²⁵. Cats that are infected should be kept indoors as well, to avoid spreading the virus and to reduce their exposure to other pathogens. They should also receive regular veterinary care, a balanced diet, and a stress-free environment. The life expectancy of an infected cat varies, but most cats will die from a feline leukemia-related disease within two or three years after becoming infected².

Feline leukemia is a serious and common disease in cats, but it can be prevented and managed with proper care and attention. By vaccinating, testing, and isolating cats, owners can protect their feline friends from this deadly virus. 🐱

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(1) Feline Leukemia Virus | Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/feline-leukemia-virus.
(2) Feline Leukemia (FeLV) – American Humane. https://www.americanhumane.org/fact-sheet/feline-leukemia-felv/.
(3) Feline Leukemia: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments | Dutch. https://www.dutch.com/blogs/cats/feline-leukemia.
(4) How to Treat Feline Leukemia – The Spruce Pets. https://www.thesprucepets.com/how-to-treat-feline-leukemia-5213536.
(5) Feline Leukemia: Causes, Vaccine, & Symptoms – ASPCA® Pet Health Insurance. https://www.aspcapetinsurance.com/resources/feline-leukemia/.

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