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Test new cat for FeLV and FIV

After taking in a stray kitten, Dr. Lee advises new cat parents to have the kitten tested for feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency viruses.

Test new cat for FeLV and FIV

Q: We found a stray kitten, whom we named Kitty. The veterinarian give her the first of several vaccinations and recommended a blood test for feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus. We agreed, and both tests were negative, which is a relief.

Still, we’d like to understand what’s so important about these two diseases that she needed to be tested for them.

A: The feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) are surprisingly prevalent in the US. You need to know the results of these tests because infection will impact Kitty’s lifestyle and how seemingly minor diseases are treated in the future. Your veterinarian may recommend re-testing in the coming months to confirm the initial results.

FeLV and FIV suppress the immune system and can give rise to diseases that shorten life, including infections and cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia. Both viruses are contagious to other cats, so any cat with FeLV or FIV must live indoors.

Many veterinarians recommend vaccinating kittens for FeLV, since kittens are most susceptible to the disease. If Kitty spends time outdoors, her vaccinations should be boosted annually. On the other hand, a vaccine for FIV is not available in the US.

I hope Kitty enjoys a long, healthy, happy life with you.


Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at askdrlee@insurefigo.com.

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