Wilson’s Story: The Importance of Testing Cats for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus and Feline Leukemia Virus

By March 16, 2015 May 8th, 2015 Vaccinations and Wellness


Meet Wilson! He is an approximately 3.5 year old male neutered snuggly, playful and loving orange tabby. Wilson was an outdoor stray that was rescued and now being fostered by one of our clients. With the help of a cat rescue agency Wilson was vaccinated, dewormed for intestinal parasites and neutered. Just after all of this it was noted that Wilson had an infected “war wound” on his paw and was brought in to see us by his foster mom. Given his history of being an outdoor kitty we decided to test Wilson for the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus and Feline Leukemia Virus.


What are these viruses?


Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

This is a cat specific virus that lowers the ability of a cat’s immune system to respond to infections. It is passed from cat to cat through their saliva, often through bite wounds. There is no vaccination against FIV in cats. Cats that test positive for FIV can go on to live a long, healthy life not showing clinical signs of disease for many years. We recommend these cats are kept indoors- to lower their risks of developing secondary infections and spread of the disease to other outdoor cats, be feed a good quality diet and routine wellness examinations.


Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)

This is a cat specific virus that invades, replicates and causes DNA damage within certain cells including immune cells and bone marrow cells. This can result in certain cancers such as leukemia or lymphoma and other diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, neurological or ocular conditions. It is passed from cat to cat through their saliva, often through close contact activities such as mating, grooming or sharing food/water dishes. This disease has a poorer outcome than cats infected with FIV, with 80-90% of cats dying from the virus with 3-4 years of being diagnosed. There is an annual vaccine for FeLV, which Dr.Costello and I recommend for any cat with any outdoor access.


Testing for FIV and FeLV

A simple blood test can be done at the clinic to check for both of these viruses. We recommend testing cats that have these risk factors:

–          Fighting

–          Time outdoors

–          Newly adopted

–          Contact with other cats

–          Sickness


Back to Wilson’s story. He tested positive for FIV. He is an amazing cat and is currently in great health but this has certainly made finding him a new home more difficult. The safest way to prevent any further disease transmission is for him to be in a single cat household and kept indoors. Without doing the FIV/FeLV viral test though Wilson may not have been adopted to an appropriate home and potentially could have passed the virus to other cats. Knowing that Wilson is FIV positive will also help us manage any illnesses he might develop and get him back to feeling better sooner.


Wilson is still currently looking for a forever home. If you have any questions about him or about testing your own cat for FIV/FeLV don’t hesitate to contact us at Blue Cross Animal Hospital: [email protected] or 519-742-2821.


Dr. Julie Fell DVM