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60–63 Weeks: What to Expect From Your Kitten

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A Primer on Feline Leukemia

The feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is responsible for more cat diseases than any other bacteria, virus, parasite, or fungus. FeLV suppresses the immune system and makes the cat susceptible to a broad array of bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. About a third of cats infected will develop virus-related cancers.

Some fast facts about FeLV:

  • The virus is transmitted from one cat to another by infected saliva.

  • Cat bites, sharing food and water dishes, and cat-to-cat grooming can spread the disease. However, the virus doesn't appear in blood tests until a cat has been constantly and repeatedly exposed for at least four weeks.

  • Kittens born to infected mothers can initially test positive for FeLV, but later tests may come up negative.

  • Some cats can fight off the virus, while others develop chronic FeLV and can spread the disease for their entire lives.

  • FeLV is diagnosed by a blood test at your vet's office. If the vet's test comes back positive, they may take another blood sample and send it to a laboratory for a different test to confirm the diagnosis.

  • FeLV-infected cats can enjoy a good quality of life for months to years after their initial diagnosis. FeLV-positive cats should be prevented from exposure to other diseases and given very good nutrition, pest control, and vet care. Keep an FeLV-positive cat's stress levels to a minimum, too.

  • There is no cure and no effective treatment for FeLV, so prevent your cat from catching the disease. Keep your cat indoors, and don't allow any other cats in your household until they have been tested. There is a vaccine for FeLV which can help to prevent infection. The American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends that all kittens be vaccinated against FeLV, and cats that go outdoors or are otherwise at high risk should have annual FeLV boosters.

For more information about the feline leukemia virus, read the Winn Feline Foundation's article on FeLV.

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