Since there are so many ifs, ands, or maybes, I am still trying to condense the information about feline leukemia. So I am taking a different approach.
What is feline leukemia? This disease is caused by a retrovirus. It is most times fatal if the cat is not able to “throw off the virus. It is not transmitted to humans. Only domestic and wild cats acquire the disease.
How is feline leukemia transmitted? It is transmitted through saliva via mutual grooming, water and food dishes, litter boxes, and bites. It is said to live outside the body for only 2 hours. It is also believed that cats become infected only after prolonged contact.
What age are cats most susceptible to the disease? Studies have shown that cats generally get the disease either from the mother cat at the time of birth or will contact the disease when under the age of two if exposed to a carrier of the virus (the contagious cat can be either already sick with the disease or be a carrier ( having “thrown off the effects of the illness but the virus is still living somewhere in the body).
Are there variables of which cat lives and which cat will succumb to the disease? I read many articles by veterinarians and researchers. It seems the consensus is that it depends on the immune system of the young cat and how well it works for any given cat. Most cats are very susceptible to the disease under the age of 4 to 8 months.
Is there a vaccine for the disease? There is a vaccine that is considered about 90% effective. My thinking is that the over all health of a young cat would depend upon whether the cat was strong enough to build up a resistance after being vaccinated. (Those are just my thoughts).
What should you do if you already have a cat/s in the house and you want to bring another cat into the mix? Ask your veterinarian to run a combo test which requires a blood draw. This test will allow the vet to read the test to see if your cat has either feline leukemia or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). The FIV virus is also a retrovirus and can produce symptoms of the disease similar to feline leukemia. The difference is that many cats can live a normal life span with FIV for it responds to treatment in a positive manner, as a rule. Keeping your cat healthy if it is positive for FIV will pretty much assure that your cat can lead a healthy life if kept stress free and provided with good nutrition, etc. A cat that becomes will with feline leukemia has a slim chance of making it through the illness. Actually rare if the cat really becomes ill.
Are there false positives and false negatives with the combo test? Yes, sad but true, so if you want to be doubly sure it is best to wait several months ( your vet will tell you when to retest). If this happens, my best suggestion is to keep the cat separate from the other cats. This may be difficult for the average person but it can be done. In the past I had to isolate several cats that were positive for feline leukemia. (They died within a short time. There were no treatment options to prolong their life way back when. They were already beginning to show signs of being ill with the disease when they turned up as strays. About 8 years ago I acquired 2 kittens that tested positive for FIV and I have continued to keep them in a large cage and then let them out with supervision in my animal barn. The building is 15×30 with windows, double door entry, insulated, a stained concrete floor, a very large escape proof run and contains special large cages for sick cats). I have spent lots of hard earned money on my cat rescues. I could not place these animals for it is a rare soul that will take on a diseased cat or dog.
Are there medications and treatments for feline leukemia.? There are several medications/treatments that can buy the cat some time and in some cases the virus produces antibodies which will either cure the disease or keep in reined in. Sometimes the virus is completely eliminated from the system but it is also possible that the cat can become ill with feline leukemia as an older cat. I had a cat that lived to be 11-12 years old and that had tested negative when I rescued her from near starvation. She had been living near a dumpster at a church. She was healthy all those years and then one day she would not eat and began losing weight within a matter of days. It was hard for me to digest the fact that she tested positive for feline leukemia after all those years ( she was negative as a kitten of about 8 months of age).
What medications/ treatments might help prolong my cat’s life if it should become ill? There are human meds such as interferon, steroids, antibiotics, and a few other immune system stimulators. You can research these on the Internet to get in depth information. Vitamins, blood transfusions, and even chemotherapy ( if the virus has caused lymphosarcoma.) The chemo is quite expensive and the average person will not go that far in an effort to save their cat. The speciality hospitals will give you the odds and help you make a decision that you can afford and can live with.
For more information read articles on the Internet that have been written by veterinarians. You will be shaking your head by the time you finish reading some of them. To put it mildly, this disease is a real BITCH from hell.