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Feline Leukemia in Multiple Cat Households?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
Our little 5 month old dilute tortie, Luthien, was diagnosed last night with Feline Leukemia. She'd been tested negative at about 3 months old. Our new vet is fantastic and very helpful.

However, I am finding very different info online about transmission. One thing I read was that it is not easily transmissable to other adult cats. Then I read that it is readily transmitted. We're confused and concerned about the health of the other cats. We are going to get everybody re-tested, starting with her littermate Eowyn and younger sibs (same momcat) Flash and Fleur, as well as Trinity, who nursed Luthien and Eowyn when we first took them in. Right now, we have Luthien in isolation in the room with us, and the others we consider the highest-risk (those noted above) in isolation in another room here.

Any info on transmission, immune-boosting stuff, etc would be dearly appreciated.
post #2 of 12
From what I have learned it is not easily transmitted between house cats, and the virus only lives in bodily fluids.....

How ever to ease your mind, maybe it would be prudent to get the remaining cats vaccinated.....though the FIV vaccine can be pricey.....

Also if you do plan on vaccinating make sure you either have them micrchipped or are confident that they will never get out of the house, because once vaccinated and FIV test they have will come out positive, and there is no way to tell the difference between a sick cat or a vaccinated cat....some do gooder may feel its their duty to put the kit down.......

On a positive side cats with FIV can live long happy and for the most part healthy lives...this is not a death sentence.....

Good luck
post #3 of 12
ALL your other kitties have been fixed, have`nt they??? This can be transmitted pretty easily though sex. (Exchanging bodily fluids) Or agression that draws blood.
I do understand that cat luekemia is not the same as the people kind. cats that are taken care of can live a long time with this.
I would not let this be an outdoor kitty at all though if i were you. Too much can happen to them out there and if they get hurt they can get infections easily....not to mention possibly giving it to stray cats that theymight fight with.
Your vet should be able to give you all the info you need.
post #4 of 12
OMG Sue! I went thru exactly what you are describing 2 years ago. At the time my household numbered 13 and a 9 month old kitten (Hendrix) tested positive for it. He was born feral and showed up on my property when a young kitten with his brother. Both were sick, both were vetted and supposedly tested while at the vet. We found out later the FeLV test was not run - not that it would have mattered as sometimes it just doesn't show up at a young age.

You are exactly right - online information is somewhat contradictory at best. I read all I could and also contacted a cat specialist that works with universities to keep up with the disease. Here's some of the conclusions I came to.

Hendrix's littermate Morrison also had the disease. In the 7 months that they lived in the house, they bonded EXTREMELY closely to another 3 year old brother pair Ruby and Pinky. The 4 of them spent about 50% of their time together, sleeping, grooming, eating, etc. Being young playful kittens, they engaged anyone in the house that would play with them, and the balance of the day was spent either with each other (25%), or mingling with other cats (25%). All typical cats living together in a household stuff.

When we found out that Hendrix was positive, we had every cat in the house tested. His brother was positive and Ruby was positive. All of the remaining 10 cats were negative, including Pinky. We had the entire household tested twice 30 days apart. Anytime a cat gets sick and we have blood drawn, we rerun the test as a safety measure (the incident has scared us for life).

My entire household is vaccinated regularly, including the FeLV vaccine. We free feed so cats share the same food and water bowls. We isolate cats upon entry to the house until they are tested or if they are sick, recover. Obviously all litter boxes are shared and we do the typical cleaning routine with them.

So what was different about Ruby, particularly over Pinky who had equal time with the kittens? Pinky/Ruby were also feral born littermates brought in at a young age. Genetically appeared identical - it was hard to tell them apart at times. Both were huge long haired red tabbies, apparently very healthy, in the prime of their life. The only difference was that Ruby was traumatized as a kitten - we found him entangled in a clematis vine at 8 weeks old in the heat of summer. His leg was injured and it took him a year to walk right due to restricted blood flow to his leg. Could this be the difference or was it just bad luck? My vet scratched his head on that one also.

Based on what I read online and got from the specialist, about 25%-33% of cats exposed to the virus actually take on the virus but spend the first 30 days or so trying to fight it off. They will test positive on the Elisa test at that time, which tests for exposure to the disease. A certain percentage of these cats, particularly those that are in the prime of life (as Ruby was) will fight it off. If they are vaccinated, they have a higher chance of fighting it off. I remember doing the math on the statistics and discovered that in this situation, about 10% of vaccinated cats with regular sustained exposure will succumb to the full blown disease (e.g. the virus goes into their bloodstream and is not reversible). The IFA test will test for the virus in the bloodstream and is considered the definitive test. So of the 11 cats in the house outside of Hendrix/Morrison, only 1 got it - fit the 10% profile exactly.

A cat with FeLV can live a long life but needs special treatments - the right food, medical supplements, and low stress. The big issue with a multi cat household for positive cats is that by nature of having so many cats, it is nearly impossible to keep it entirely stress free. You can isolate the cat, which we did with Ruby, but in his case, he was such a cat social cat that the isolation stressed him to an extreme. Our visits to his room simply were not enough for him. He quickly became very sick at being isolated but I would not risk further exposure to the rest of my household (Morrison and Hendrix both succumbed quickly to it as they were young and obviously were born with it).

I found a haven for FeLV cats that would have taken him in, but they helped educate me on the stress factor with FeLV cats - sometimes just moving them from their familiar environment is enough to put them over the edge.

I don't envy anyone going thru FeLV, and it is that much harder in a large household. If you need to talk, even if to vent, e-mail me and I'll pass along my phone number (PM's are down). I so totally emphasize with you right now.

From my household to yours, a big
post #5 of 12
Let me add this on a personal side. I found this site when I was going thru this problem. Sue, when I saw your postings at the time, I was inspired by your name but at the time had no idea how many cats I would have by the end of my crisis. Therefore, I chose the generic "many" name. Don't think I was cleaver, I was in complete panic.

I lost 50 pounds the year that I went thru this crisis. I didn't eat well (obviously) and didn't sleep well. Please reach out to others for help right now. It can overwhelm you.

Just realized that the vet I consulted with was in the Denver area. Let me know if you want a referral - he was a great help to me during this time, even though we simply talked over the phone.
post #6 of 12
Just adding that the reason that there is such controversy around this disease is that the veterinary community really doesn't know what cuases it, how some escape it, how some are dormant carriers, and others are active carriers. There are so many diseases out there to chase that this one imo hasn't been chased actively enough except in the last few years.
post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thank you all for your responses. Luthien crossed the Bridge this AM, she was not getting better, only worse. She couldn't beat the URI; her fever was back, she wouldn't eat or drink for 48 hours, and the vet looked at a blood smear and said there were "no white blood cells at all".

The new vet, Dr Mercado, is an angel. She has a friend, also a vet, who has a multiple cat household and does house calls. She is going to call her and have her come to visit us to do the testing, and we are keeping our fingers crossed for the rest of the gang.
Thank you again, from all of us.
post #8 of 12
I'm sorry for your loss and am gladdened to hear you have a vet coming to check out your other babies. Hugs and good wishes.
post #9 of 12
I am so Sorry for your loss. You are doing a good thing for all your cats. You are in our thoughts

RIP Luthien
post #10 of 12
So sorry to hear that, fingers crossed that the rest of your babies are fine.
post #11 of 12
post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 
We had her re-tested this AM. IMO, she was the most "at risk" as Luthien's littermate and most usual playmate.

Our vet is going to order a box of tests for us, they'll be $7 each instead of $38, and she will come here to our house and draw the blood to test everyone else. Keeping my fingers crossed, but feeling more confident that everything will be ok...
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