The Truth About Feline Leukemia Positive Cats
If you’ve had a cat test positive for feline leukemia, there is probably a 50/50 chance that your vet has recommended that you put the cat to sleep. If you are reading this, it is likely that something inside of you has said “this isn’t right.”
I am not a vet and this is not a web page dedicated to explaining the disease to people. For that, you need to see the Cornell University website, and I will provide those links below. But more importantly, you need to talk with people who have been through this. I have done that. I am no expert, BUT we have taken in feline leukemia positive cats, and in the same household as disease-free cats. This is a very complicated issue and each situation will be different, but our point is that these cats may have tested positive falsely, and should, at the very least, have a second test at least three months apart.
Feline leukemia is not like human leukemia. It is not cancer, for one thing. It was probably named this because a cat who has feline leukemia has a compromised immune system. Currently the medical establishment has no good answers regarding feline leukemia (which we often refer to as “feleuk”). They can’t decide how effective the vaccine is (which is one of the many reasons all cats should be indoor only). They can’t decide how it spreads. Cornell University will tell you that it is spread through prolonged intimate contact such as bathing (while still telling you not to share litter boxes and food bowls with healthy cats and feline positive ones), while there has been case after case of feline leukemia positive cats living among healthy cats for years without passing the disease.
The first thing you need to know (beyond the fact that you cannot catch this disease as a human) is that, even more than with FIV, feline leukemia positive cats need to be tested at least twice because false positive readings can occur (and we have had false positives here). There should be a 3 month period between each test.
The second thing we want you to know is that feline leukemia positive cats can live healthy lives – usually another two to four years after diagnosis.
Feline leukemia positive cats can live in the same household, but should live in separate areas of the house. If one of your cats turns up positive, you should probably allow him to live in a separate part of the house while you test the other cats in the household and wait the 3-4 month period to retest the positive cat.
Because the evidence is inconclusive as far as how the disease is passed, I would take precautions such as using separate litter boxes, food and water bowls and living space. However, it is not an airborne disease and so if one of your cats has feline leukemia, he does not need to be removed from the household, but just be kept separate from your other cats.
by Victoria M. King