Helping FeLV- and FIV-positive cats All animals available for adoption through Maumee Valley Save-A-Pet have tested negative for feilne leukemia (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) if six months or older at the time of adoption
But occasionally, we'll learn about animals in the public that have tested positive for one or both diseases. We take being no-kill very seriously - and to really live up to that standard, we need to help locate permanent, loving homes and sanctuaries for these cats, who can lead happy, healthy lives for years.
Here are the facts about both diseases:
Feline leukemia virus (FeLV)
- Cats contract this disease primarily through repeated exposure to an infected cat. The FeLV virus is excreted in a positive cat's saliva, tears, urine, feces, and blood - so sharing food bowls, water bowls, and litter boxes are vehicles of disease transmission. (Kittens can carry the virus if their mother has it.)
- A positive test result - except for the occasional false-positive - does mean the cat is infected at that time. However, it does not mean the cat is persistently (permanently) infected. Some cats will fight the virus off and return to a negative status. Therefore, a cat can't be considered truly positive for FeLV until it is re-tested (using the SNAP test, other in-house tests, or the lab IFA test) after at least a month (no sooner than a month) after the initial test. Re-testing and the timing of re-testing should be discussed with your vet. For instance, you may want to have a confirmatory re-test conducted immediately and if the confirmatory re-test results are positive - re-test again after at least a month (no sooner than a month) after the confirmatory test.
- If the re-test done after at least a month (or longer) after the initial test is positive, the cat is considered positive at that time for FeLV - but the good news is, the cat still could have several years of happy life ahead.
- Providing a good home to an FeLV-positive is no different than providing a good home to any cat, although you should be extra sensitive to any symptoms of illness. The cat simply stays strictly indoors and has no contact with non-positive cats - although introducing another FeLV-positive cat would be fine. A good diet, lots of love and attention - and the cat's all set.
- Will you have an FeLV-positive for 5, 10 or 15 years? Probably not. But you are giving a wonderful gift to that animal - a lifetime in a real home, no matter how long or short that life may be.
Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)
- FIV is not contagious to humans or other species.
- FIV is contagious to other cats, but difficult to transmit - FIV is transmitted primarily through deep bite wounds resulting from fighting or rough play.
- A positive screening FIV test does not necessarily mean a cat has FIV. A Western Blot test or IFA test should be conducted. Re-testing and the timing of re-testing should be discussed with your vet. Note that positive FIV test results for kittens under 6 months of age are not considered valid - such kittens should be re-tested each month using the SNAP test until they test negative or exceed 6 months of age. If a kitten still has a positive SNAP test result at 6 months of age, it would be appropriate to run a confirmatory Western Blot test.
- The good news about FIV is that symptoms may never appear or may not appear for years. That means many FIV-positive cats can have a normal life span.
- Providing a home to a healthy FIV-positive cat is just like owning a healthy non-positive cat, with the exception of being extra sensitive to symptoms of illness. The cat simply stays strictly indoors and preferably has no contact with non-positive cats - although introducing another FIV-positive cat would be fine. A good diet, lots of love and attention - and the cat's all set. Remember, the primary means of transmission are through bite wounds resulting from fighting and rough play. Casual spread of FIV does occur, although it is uncommon.
Important note on test results for both FeLV and FIV: A positive test result may be a false positive, for example, due to a faulty test kit or a test administration problem.
This is why re-testing is so important when the first test is positive. Also, any cat given the new FIV vaccine, Fel-O-Vax FIV, will test positive for FIV.
Test Information There are 2 "screening" tests for FIV, both from IDEXX: SNAP for in clinic use and PetChek for lab use. The Western Blot and IFA are "confirmatory" tests for lab use. All are antibody tests.
There are multiple FeLV antigen "screening" tests from different companies. The IFA antigen test is available at many labs.
FeLV and FIV homes and sanctuaries Our goal is to identify permanent, loving homes for these FIV- and FeLV-positive cats - but there also are sanctuaries around the United States. Are you aware of any sanctuaries in the Ohio, Michigan or Indiana area? Or are you interested in providing a home for an FIV or FeLV-positive?
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2001 Report of the American Association of Feline Practitioners and Academy of Feline Medicine Advisory Panel on Feline Retrovirus Testing and Management
Credits The testing information was provided by Julie Levy, DVM, PhD, ACVIM, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida.