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Feline Leukemia

1682 Views 6 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  KMK83
I have yet another question :) This time about the likelihood that our new cat could have feline leukemia but is not yet producing antibodies that would result in a positive test... and how long we should wait before introducing our cats if there is even a remote chance that new cat could be infected.

We have a 1.5 year old female cat. We adopted a male cat (approx 1 year old) last Wednesday. He was found outside (we don't know how long he was out there or where he came from). He obviously is not feral because he is fixed and is very people friendly. The people who were feeding him tried to see if he was lost- posted notices in the community and the internet, looked for a microchip, scoured the lost ads, etc.

On April 18, the people who were feeding him took him for a checkup and got him a distemper shot. He tested negative for feline HIV and leukemia. But he was outside for about a week and a half after that.

On May 6, we took him for his distemper booster and another check up. We wondered if we should get him tested for leukemia again. The vet told us that if he was recently exposed he probably hasn't started producing antibodies yet. She said we should test him again in 6 months. We told her we don't know if it was realistic for us to keep the cats separate for 6 months... so then the vet said we could get him tested again in 6 weeks...and in an ideal world, we would keep them separate until then, but he is probably low risk because he already tested negative.

We're really confused. The vet acknowledged that she gave us sort of a "non-answer." I assume she has to err on the side of caution and can't advocate introducing them if there is even a slight chance our male could be infected.

But I'm wondering if we are just being too neurotic? Can anyone give any advice? Would you keep your cats separate for 6 weeks?
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If you are worried exclusively about Feline Leukemia and HIV, they are transmitted by deep bites and scratches from an infected cat to one that is not. However, when introducing new cats, anything can happen. At the very least, I would keep them separate at night when they cannot be supervised until you can know for sure.

I am not sure about the probability of infection since he tested negative at this point, but I can tell you from experience Feline Leukemia is not a disease you want to mess with. It is truly devastating!
I volunteer with FIV and FeLV cats, FeLV in particular is usually a killer within a couple years. Not always, but often.

I'm wondering why you think he has FeLV? Just because he was outside/got in a fight with another cat/was around an FeLV cat does not mean he has FeLV. Since you think he just got it I'm assuming he doesn't even have any symptoms to lead you to think he has it, so I'm confused.
Thanks for the replies.

@dweamgoil- I thought I read that it can be transmitted by nose to nose contact, grooming and sharing water/food and litterbox? We are just worried about leukemia because he tested negative and was vaccinated against FIV in April.

@ carmel- We have no reason to think he has it except that he has been outside in an area where there are quite a few feral cats. We don't know how long he was outside or anything about his history. I know that being outside, even around other cats that do have it, doesn't necessarily mean that he has it too. He also doesn't appear to have been in any fights, and the people who were feeding him said he seemed to try to avoid the other cats, but they did see a cat on the porch "bullying" him on two occasions.

I guess the problem is that we won't be able to 100% rule it out until at least 6 weeks... (or possibly 6 months?) from now. I don't know...I suspect we are worrying too much.
Apparently it can spread by grooming and sharing food and water but not very often. Some people even keep FeLV and healthy cats in the same household. Every so often another cat at the cat sanctuary gets found positive for FeLV within the healthy 700+ cats, so there's always silent careers around, but considering these cats shared food and water and groom each other leads me to realise that rate of transmission outside of serious bite wounds must be so very extremely low, or all the cats would have it.

From your description of him and how he stuck to himself and was already neutered making him less territorial, I'd say he's a healthy cat. It's better to be safe than sorry but it wouldn't be something I'd be worried about.
@dweamgoil- I thought I read that it can be transmitted by nose to nose contact, grooming and sharing water/food and litterbox? We are just worried about leukemia because he tested negative and was vaccinated against FIV in April.
In healthy cats, the probability of it spreading that way is so remote that actual transmission in this manner would be very unlikely given the scenario you have described.

When I was a kid (before routine testing and neutering and spaying being more mainstream) , I had a female who was a non-symptom carrier for Feline Leukemia and lived along with my male for over 2 years without anything happening. It wasn't until they copulated that there was an issue. However, it doesn't hurt to be cautious until you know for sure.

So, your option would be to rescue him and keep him separated from your other cat until you know for certain. This will more than likely require some inconvenience for you and your family, or you can try to find him another home in which he will be the only cat, which may take longer than 6 weeks. Adult cats generally dont' exactly sell themselves.
Thanks for the responses.

We definitely want to keep him. We have had him isolated in our spare bedroom for 5 or 6 days and we really enjoy him. He is a really special cat- very friendly and affectionate. We would only rehome him if he is positive for FeLV.

I really don't think he will bite my resident cat. He is very friendly and they see each other all the time with no aggression. We will monitor all contact.

I am basically worried that it will be spread by touching noses, using the same box, or mutual grooming (if they really hit it off). I guess it is silly to be worried about that, given that he tested negative two weeks ago and appears healthy?? We're really itching to introduce them but we want to do the right thing.
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