Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) are viruses that are distinct and unique to CATS, whether large & wild or small & domesticated. Both are “slow” viruses that can take a long time to manifest in health issues and both seriously compromise the immune system. They can only be detected with specific blood tests.
Thankfully, FeLV is preventable with immunization. A vaccine is available for FIV
but it has a number of drawbacks such that we do not recommend it at this time.
FeLV can be spread through saliva, urine or feces, so bite wounds, mutual grooming or the sharing of food/water dishes or litter boxes are the most common means of transmission. FIV transfer among cats is a little more difficult and generally occurs with fight wounds.
Symptoms in either case are non-specific and may be non-existent for months or even years. Thus, testing is critical to prevent infection of other cats.
All new kittens and cats entering homes with resident cats should be tested for FeLV in advance of first contact. Ideally the resident cat should already be known to be FeLV negative and immunized against it. New cats older than 6 months should be tested for FIV as well. A few drops of blood are all that is required. All sick cats should be tested and any cat suffering fight wounds whether they abscess or not should be tested 6-8weeks after the fact.
We strongly recommend that all kittens be vaccinated for FeLV, whether you anticipate that they will go outdoors. They are very susceptible to infection at this stage and escapes are not uncommon. Thereafter, your cats should be vaccinated annually until the age of 3, then every 3 years until the age of 10-12 years if they are indeed going outdoors.
Vaccination does not interfere with blood testing. Cats that roam or fight or are just highly social should be tested regularly.