What Are The Signs Of Feline Leukemia?



Cat owners everywhere always have anxious about scary diseases, and this is normal for any pet owner, whatever the type of pet. Asking questions such as this one What are the signs of feline leukemia is a sign that you, as a cat owner, have some fears your cat is sick and have this disease.

Today’s, I want to write about some details about Feline Leukemia, starting by stating what is feline leukemia, symptoms of feline leukemia which will answer our question what are the signs of leukemia then we will talk about the diagnosis and Treatment For Feline Leukemia.

What Is Feline Leukemia?

There are so many cat owners who heard about this term “Feline Leukemia or Leukemia in cats,” most of them believe it is a type of cancers the same as that in humans. 

You must understand as a cat owner that this is just a name for this disease that is not related to cancers. That means Feline Leukemia is not cancer. Leukemia in the cat is a type of viruses that may infect your cat as any infection. 

Feline Leukemia Virus, or in short FeLV, is a highly contagious virus passed on through close contact from infected cats mostly by blood. This virus mode of infection is through blood or saliva; the most common cause for this when your cat gets into a bloody fight with another cat. The other possible way to get this infection is through bedding and licking from the infected cat to your cat.

Feline Leukemia virus can be lethal, and it is a MUST to diagnose it and treat it as soon as possible in its early stages. If we do a simple search on Wikipedia, it describes it “Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is a retrovirus that infects cats. FeLV can be transmitted from infected cats when the transfer of saliva or nasal secretions is involved. If not defeated by the cat’s immune system, the virus can cause diseases that can be lethal.” So the problem with this virus, according to Wikipedia, is the diseases that can cause and may kill the cat!


Your Cat’s Risk Factors For FeLV

One of the risk factors is the actual exposure to an infected cat with FeLV. The other risk factor in getting infected is Age. Kittens and young adults are more likely to be infected than older cats. The reason is their immune system is weaker to fight the virus.

Nevertheless, if your cat is an indoor cat, then the risk of getting infected is very low. Also, if you are the owner of a multi-cat household, then you should know that they are more at risk, especially if they share their stuff, such as water and litter boxes.

Signs & Symptoms of Feline Leukemia

There are many different symptoms of feline leukemia you may notice. When it comes to the question “What Are The Signs Of Feline Leukemia,” you need to start thinking differently as a cat owner. There are many different symptoms and signs you may notice and similar to that in feline leukemia, but they are actually a different disease. 

That’s why it is essential to contact your vet when you suspect this disease. Cats infected with FeLV may present one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Diarrhea
  • Progressive weakness and lethargy
  • Pale gums
  • Weight loss and/or loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Yellow color in the mouth and whites of eyes
  • Bladder, skin, or upper respiratory infections
  • Poor coat condition
  • Reproductive problems like sterility in unspayed female cats 
  • Stomatitis – an Oral disease that includes ulceration of gingiva

1. Diarrhea

Diarrhea can be due to nothing! Yes, if you are a cat owner, you already know that it isn’t uncommon in cats and mostly clears up on its own. 

However, developing persistent diarrhea with unclear cause, then this is an alert sign to contact your vet. Many reasons cause diarrhea, and feline leukemia is not a common one. But, as it is one of the causes, it is a must to seek professional help and check your kitty health.  


2. Progressive Weakness And Lethargy

Progressive weakness can be one of the important signs of advanced disease. Again, many diseases share these signs; however, whenever you notice this kind of signs, you should contact your vet. Your kitty may develop generalized weakness and difficulty in walking due to this virus!

3. Pale Gums

Pale gums can be due to anemia that this virus may cause in the early or late stages of this disease. Also, when it comes to anemia in this disease, it is not just pale gums you could notice, even other different signs related to anemia such as rapid heartbeats (Tachycardia), shallow or rapid breath (difficulty in breathing).

4. Weight Loss And/Or Loss Of Appetite

Losing weight is another sign that exists in different diseases. However, if you notice this sign, it is mandatory to contact your vet about it. Losing weight is a dangerous sign. When you see your cat is losing weight, that means there is an underlying cause for it, which affects the overall health condition due to lack of nutrition.

5. Fever

Fever is not a definite sign here. The infection with any virus will show low-grade fever. The existence of fever means there is something wrong inside the body, but that doesn’t mean it is exclusive for feline leukemia. 

6. Enlarged Lymph Node

Enlarged Lymph Node is a sign of an infection. You may notice your cat challenging to swallow food or see a strange swelling in the neck. Lymphadenopathy or inflamed lymph nodes is a response to various conditions, one of which is infections, including feline leukemia. 


Diagnosis Of Feline Leukemia

The first approach to diagnose Feline Leukemia if your vet suspects it is by taking a blood sample. The blood test called ELISA, this test can identify FeLV proteins in the blood, and it is a highly sensitive test. 

However, It is important to remember that the test may come negative. If your cat’s body managed to clear the virus from the blood, the test could come negative.

 Your veterinarian could also suggest doing another blood test. This test is called IFA; it is essential to detect the progressive phase of the infection. If the test comes positive, then the infected cat is unlikely to fight this infection by itself and clear it from the body.

Unfortunately, a positive IFA test means the infection has a bad prognosis, and the disease is in its late stage.

Can Your Cat Recover From Feline Leukemia?

Many cats can recover remarkably well from feline leukemia and those who do become immune to the virus. Young, healthy cats stand a higher chance of fighting the virus. 

However, Kitties and cats with existing health problems, for example, kidney disease, or those who are elderly are less likely to recover.

Is Feline Leukemia Contagious?

Feline Leukemia is a highly contagious virus for cats. Fortunately, it is not contagious to humans or dogs. This disease is fatal, and it is an ugly one. It is our duty as cat owners to pay attention to our cats’ life and how they spend their time. 

Noticing your cat coming back home from a fight is an alarming signal to take it to the vet to do a full check-up. Of course, feline Leukemia is not the only disease that is contagious to cats due to fights; some diseases are so dangerous to cats such as Rabies.


Treatment For Feline Leukemia

Unfortunately, 85% of cats persistently infected with FeLV die within three years of diagnosis. As you may notice, this infection is a deadly one if we don’t diagnose it as early as possible.

Fortunately, regular vet checkups and proper preventive health care are good enough to keep these cats feeling well and protect them from other infections on top of this one. 

This regular checkup can include twice-yearly physical examinations, lab tests, and parasite control that can prevent other diseases, complications, and identify problems quickly to be able to treat them fast.

Your vet will tell you to keep the infected cat with FeLV indoors and to be neutered. If you have multi cats, then you should keep them away from the infected cat. 

Sadly, there is no cure for FeLV infection. All is there just supportive treatment for the infected cats.

Protecting Your Cat From Feline Leukemia

This first approach to protect your cat is to keep your cat indoors, some cat owners disagree with this, and they want to let them go outside freely. In this case, monitoring your cat to avoid other cats and fights is essential. 

Also, your vet may give your cat vaccine, especially cats going outside and at high risk of exposure to this virus.

However, your vet will conduct a blood test before giving your cat a vaccine, and only cats with negative tests for FeLV will be given this vaccine.

According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners, your vet should test any cat that is sick. This approach to avoiding any misdiagnosis because there is a wide variety of diseases and infections that can be associated with this virus.

Also, all young kittens over 8-week of age should be tested for the virus. Your vet will do this test for the new kittens before introducing it to the multicast household to avoid spreading the disease to them. That way will prevent from spreading the virus to other cats and protect them. Besides, the stress of a newcomer cat may adversely affect the FeLV-positive cat.



Keeping our cats healthy is our priority in life as cat owners. Many diseases are lurking around to infect our fluffy friends and us paying attention to their behavior, and their health is the best way for prevention.

Prevention is the best treatment as I always say; also, the information you are reading now is precious to make you more oriented to what is going on with your cat. After all, our fluffy friends can’t speak to us and tell us what is going on and if they are in pain. Let’s keep our cats happy and healthy in every way possible!

So finally, I hope you found this article useful and informative. Let me know your answer. What do you think? Do you have more information or tips about What Are The Signs Of Feline Leukemia? Write them down below.

If you have any other questions or different opinions about it, leave a comment below.

Today’s Quote:

Any cat who misses a mouse pretends it was aiming for the dead leaf.” — Charlotte Gray


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Leslie Hudson
Leslie Hudson
1 year ago

We have a kitty friend that comes by daily. I have watched him grow from a baby to a young adult. I want to have him tested, as I would like to bring him indoors to stay. This article was beneficial! We have two cats already, and I don’t want them to get sick. Thank you so much!

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