Understanding FeLV: Loving and Living With FeLV Cats

Joni Gallo shares her knowledge of FeLV, and her very personal understanding of loving and living with, and caring for, cats who carry the virus.

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Guest post by Joni Gallo

We asked Joni to share her knowledge and understanding of cats with the Feline Leukemia Virus with us. Joni is a lifelong cat lover who has had several FeLV cats in recent years, without planning to. She has learned about the condition and about living with and caring for cats who carry the virus. Despite well-meaning recommendations and advice encouraging her to euthanize her cats upon diagnosis, Joni chose to let them live and give them the love and care they deserved.  She has a mission now, to encourage others to give FeLV kitties a chance at life and happiness.

Sienna, who was discovered to have the virus as a kitten

As I hung up the phone, I began to cry. The vet had just told me that the new kitten I’d brought home had tested positive for the feline leukemia virus. She told me I shouldn’t keep him. I had five other cats. I was torn. Little 3 month old Sienna had been found in an abandoned house with his mother and had nowhere else to go. He would have been “euthanized” at a kill shelter. He would have been spared at a no-kill shelter but would most likely never get adopted. I couldn’t give him to anyone. No one would want him.

Fortunately, as it turned out, I did keep Sienna because I found out a month later, that he was not the only cat I had that carried the feline leukemia virus.

What is the Feline Leukemia virus and why is it so feared? FeLV is a retrovirus that only infects cats. The virus spreads by inserting copies of its own genetic material into the host cat’s cells. The cells are then transformed into cancer cells or cells which do not function the way that they should. (greenbriervet.com)

FeLV is passed along from cat to cat through bodily fluids and requires repeat exposure such as that which occurs in cats sharing a household or living together in the same room at a shelter. Mutual grooming, sneezing, the sharing of dishes and litter pans can all spread the virus. FeLV is sometimes confused with FIV, which is more like human HIV. With FIV, white blood cells called T helper cells are destroyed, leading to a depression of the cat’s immune system. FIV is mostly spread through bite wounds and so is more common in unneutered males. (winnfelinehealth.org)


When a cat tests positive for feline leukemia and has been exposed to other cats, all the cats should be tested immediately. I made the mistake of only having one other cat tested, Colt, the one that had spent the most time with Sienna. When his test turned up negative, I stopped there. A little over a month later, it was discovered that my two girls, Dharma and Karma, both carried the virus.

Retests are important with FeLV. The test that is performed at the vet’s office is called the ELISA test. This test checks for the presence of a protein component of the virus as it circulates in the bloodstream. (vet.cornell.edu) Since it is possible for the cat to produce an immune response that sheds the virus, another ELISA test should be done a few weeks later. There is also a second test called the IFA test which is sent out to a diagnostic laboratory. This test can be used to confirm the cat’s FeLV status.

40% of the cats exposed to FeLV will successfully shed the virus from their systems. (greenbriervet.com) This occurrence is more common with an adult cat, then it is for a kitten. If the virus is not shed, there are two other outcomes. 30% of the time, the cat will become persistently infected. In this case, both the ELISA test and IFA test will be positive for feline leukemia and remain positive for the cat’s whole life. Cats that are infected will typically remain healthy two to three years after exposure and then eventually succumb to a FeLV-related disease such as lymphoma, leukemia, or an untreatable infection. 15% of FeLV+ cats do, however, make it past the four year mark.


In the second outcome, 30% of cats exposed to FeLV will become latent carriers of the virus. When the virus moves into the cat’s bone marrow, it becomes undetectable in tests. At a later date, the cat will either shed the virus or become persistently infected. (greenbriervet.com) This last scenario is how a cat that was previously negative can become positive even without new exposure to the virus. Most likely, my cats, Dharma and Karma, were latent carriers. Sienna, being so tiny, was unlikely to spread the virus to adult cats and although there is a small chance that Dharma and Karma passed the virus to Sienna, it’s more likely he got the virus from his mother. (Sienna’s mother was taken into another home and had not been tested the last I heard.)


When you have a household of both feline leukemia negative and positive cats as I do, you can do two things. First, you can keep the cats separated. In other words, the positive cats can be kept in one room or on a separate floor to prevent exposing the negative cats to the virus. This is the safest option. Second, you can have the cats that tested negative vaccinated against feline leukemia. This is what I opted to do and it has, so far, been successful. Those cats that are negative stayed negative. The vaccine is not considered 100% effective but it can work by creating an immune response to the virus that will protect the exposed cats.

Some vets will suggest euthanizing a cat that carries FeLV, though not all vets do. If you opt to euthanize, you must realize that you are destroying a cat that only has the potential to be ill but is not necessarily currently ill or in any distress. Doing this is not giving the cat’s immune system the chance to possibly shed the virus. Also, if you euthanize, you will never know if the cat could have been one of the 15% that may have lived a long, healthy life.


There are people who believe that euthanizing cats that are positive for FeLV is helping to prevent an epidemic against the whole feline population. This is incorrect. An epidemic of feline leukemia would only be likely to happen in a hoarding situation. Cats that live outside (even in feral colonies) do not live in close enough proximity to each other to spread the virus. For instance, it is estimated that only 2-3% of cats in the United States carry the virus at any given time. (vet.cornell.edu)

If you decide to keep your FeLV+ cat, know that you are doing a very noble thing. You are giving a chance to a cat that doesn’t have much of a chance. Although the cat’s lifespan may be shorter than that of a normal cat, that life can be filled with happiness for both you and the cat. Good care is important. Feed the cat a high quality diet and try to find a vet who is knowledgeable about the feline leukemia virus, which you would be more likely to find in a “cat’s only” practice.

FeLV+ cats should always be kept indoors for their own safety and for the safety of any strays that may wander onto your property. Due to their weakened immune system, it is important to treat an infection in a FeLV+ cat immediately with antibiotics. Eye and gum diseases can be especially common and should be watched for. An immune booster such as interferon is sometimes given which can help protect against the growth of tumors. In a controlled research study (Weiss et al. 1991) found that feline leukemia positive cats that were given interferon had a 75 percent reduction in symptoms. (aboutcatsonline.com)

Sadly, the story with my cats that carried FeLV did not end well. Sienna was euthanized at 6 months old after developing spinal lymphoma. Dharma and Karma were healthy for about 3 years after testing positive for the virus, they both then succumbed to a mixture of cancer and bacterial infections. Colt, unfortunately, tested positive for the virus before he could be vaccinated. He is coming up on the three year mark but is so far still healthy. He now has an FeLV+ companion, Gabriel.

Although it was hard watching Sienna, Karma, and Dharma go, and it is sad that their time with me was cut so short, I could not imagine having lived without them. Their joyful, loving spirits endured until the end and I’m glad that I gave them the chance to live out their lives.

Cats with the feline leukemia virus face a tough struggle. They do not need the added burden of people’s ignorance and fear. If you ever find yourself in my situation, please do what I did and get all the facts before making a decision. That way at least you know, that whatever decision you make, you have thought it through and did not just cave into the hysteria that usually accompanies any discussion involving the feline leukemia virus. These cats deserve no less than our full consideration and respect.

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62 thoughts on “Understanding FeLV: Loving and Living With FeLV Cats

  1. All such precious babies. Sienna’s paws so adorable. I know you miss them all, but they were so lucky to have found you! Best of health to darlings Colt and Gabriel.

    1. Thank you, Joni. Your experience answers many questions for me in regard to FeLV. I have a recently rescued kitten about 8 months old who just tested positive for FeLV. She was starving and had many problems. She continues to be stronger and healthier. She will be placed with my Mom to be her cat’s companion. First of course the current cat, Patches will be tested and vaccinated (assuming he is negative). The month waiting to be safer while Tula will be spayed and have her vaccinations.
      Thank you all for your comments especially those who have the experience of having vaccinated cats living with FeLV positive cats. I wanted first hand experience after the veterinarian information.
      My favorite supplement for Tula is biosuperfood microalgae. You can find out more about it at http://www.optimumchoices.com
      My resident rescue cat of 3 years, Shamana, looks like Gabriels twin.

      1. Feed that cat HALO Cat food or you will be visiting the vet at least once a month. Check into LTCI treatment for cats as soon as possible. I’m a cat man,always have been. Give that cat love. Felv will kill a male cat,,where a female will survive it. I’ve studied it for the past two years on the net. it will give the love back to you.

  2. I totally agree. We had a stray cat come in the cat door one day Tiger . At that time we had Patchie who was an indoor/outdoor cat. He was so hungry and so affectionate. After some inspection he was really sick. It makes me cry that someone just put him out (or whatever). I had to have him put to sleep but for a short while he was loved, warm and fed. It still brings tears to my eyes. He was so loving even to the short end. Patchie also had the virus. She lasted a short time but I would never have given up the five years we had with her. Every life no matter how big or small is special. My vet said some people would choose not to keep a cat with the virus ….we choose to. Thank you so much for this post.

  3. What a truly informative article! You will help so many people keep their cats diagonosed with this virus and most importantly, give them some much-needed hope. Thank goodness for people like you who have a kind heart.
    Thank you so much for writing this article. This information needs to reach the public. Great job!

  4. I sadly, am fighting this situation right now. I brought home Mick, a sweet little black and white 5.5 month old kitten with a black nose and black pads–not to mention a big white skunk stripe down his back–on September 17th. He had an URI, and I got him medicine, but it didn’t go away. My other kitten was not feeling well either so I took them to the vet. I had had Lazlo much longer as he was rescued from near death in a rain storm in a field where he was abandoned at 3 weeks old, and he had been vaccinated.

    But poor Mick tested FeLV+.

    My home is not setup to separate cats, so Lazlo has temporarily moved to my mother’s house while I figure out what to do.

    I don’t believe that I will be lucky enough to be able to keep Mick around for several years. And not because I don’t want to.

    Mick has persistent diarrhea. He urinates three times as much as he drinks, which is a sign that his kidneys may be shutting down. He screams so loud when he throws up that you can hear it from the other side of the house–he threw up 5 times yesterday. He hides most of the time and spends about 22 hours a day sleeping, if not more. He also has trouble eating and has a persistent URI that will just not go away.

    As I am dealing with the reality of Mick’s situation every day, knowing that the right decision for this poor little soul is to go in peace, and not be made to live in pain, I get angry.

    Angry enough that I’m pursuing a new law that will require shelters to test, separate and vaccinate. You can sign the petition here: http://www.change.org/petitions/micks-law

    I am heart broken and infuriated that Mick is suffering. He is such a sweet, loving little kitty. I wish I could just make him better. I have told myself to give it time, to give it another 30 days and see if he gets better. But every day, he seems to get worse.

    I feel so guilty because I don’t feel that it’s my right to make this decision for this poor little kitty who I barely know, but love with all my heart.

    What do you do when this happens???

    1. I’m sorry to hear about poor Mick being so sickly, AC. You can only do so much for your FeLV+ cats. If the quality of their lives is poor and they are suffering and the vet can’t help them anymore, euthanasia can be a kindness. My Sienna was only around 6 months old when his pain became so severe that he became unable to use his back legs and I made the decision. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I cried and cried and prayed for a miracle but it didn’t come. I often find myself wondering what he would have looked like if he’d been able to grow up and be healthy and what my home would be like with him in it. Although it hurt, I opened my heart and home to other FeLV+ cats. I just took in another one last week named Thorin after my older cat Pippin (who did not carry FeLV) passed away from kidney failure.

      I know the no-kill shelters around here do test for FeLV and separate these cats. If the cat is a latent carrier of the virus, the test can come up negative so periodic retesting is important. I would also test any new cat that came into my house just for the safety of the cats already there, if they were negative. I think the cost to vaccinate all cats against FeLV would be too much for most shelters and the there seems to be a small number of cat that are not protected from FeLV by the vaccine.

      I hope things get better for Mick and that you find a home for him.

      1. Joni (and others) – I lost two cats to this horrible disease. Like Joni, when my first boy got sick, I brought him home and loved him within 3 weeks he had lost so much weight but it was the Saturday night that he went to stand up and his hind legs collapsed under him that I said, “it’s time.” Of course it the vet’s office was closed and it took a lot of phones calls to get my vet to come in on a Sunday to put my poor boy down. I do wish I had put his younger brother down at the same time because he was the runt of the litter and depended so much on his big brother. But the vet talked me out of it. Never go against your instinct! You know your pets best. My other boy spent the next 6 months grieving to death. He didn’t die from FeLV he developed a pancreas disease with the vet then told me that “some cats will grieve and develop this disease.” No shit! I could have saved my baby the heartache and grieving if I had listened to my gut. If it had been the other way and the younger cat had to be put down, his older brother was self confident enough that he would have been fine as an only cat.

        There are two most important things are help prevent FeLV. One is using the correct litter box cleaner in a multi cat home – a cleaner that kills FIP and FeLV. The second is your cat’s diet. There is a group called Pet Fooled that explains how the very expensive foods we are feeding our cats (and dogs) is actually killing them. Which makes them more vulnerable to all diseases. I now have one cat and he eats a raw diet. It took me some time to really switch over until I realized that my new boy has IBD and every 3 months I was going to the vet and he was living on drugs. Once I put him on a raw diet, he no longer gets diarrhea or gets sick.

        Please watch the Pet Fooled video.

        I am so sorry for all that you all are suffering through, it’s so painful and with FeLV somehow the guilt never goes away. (It’s been 3 years since my first boy died and 2 1/2 years when his brother died.). God bless.

        1. PS – I forgot to mention that if you find out that your cat has FeLV, please be sure to find a 24hr emergency vet in your area because your cat will get to it’s worse point when your usual vet is closed and they aren’t happy to have to come in even if you have been a regulars for say 20 years. There are people who wanted to let their cats “die peacefully at home.” And their is no peaceful death for FeLV. Their stomachs swell so big and they go into seizures that may not stop until they are dead. It’s a horrible, painful death and the kindest thing is to have them put down.

          Actually, it’s just wise to find a 24hr emergency care vet regardless.

    2. Sorry to hear about Mick’s illness. One thing I’ve learned from nursing cats with chronic illness is that even vets sometimes do not sort out what issue arises from what cause. For example, one could have an underlying cause that leads to Chronic Renal Failure (CRF), in turn expressing as a variety of symptoms. There are things that can be done to support a CRF kitty, even when the original insult cannot be undone. Blessings for Mick and you in the days ahead. And Joni is right. Those tough road kitties have become very close relationships, cherished even years later.

    3. Have you tried interferon for Mick? Not sure he is still with us.. as this is an older posting.. but wanted to ask, as i have had so far great success with my cat PUMA who is FELV positive.

      1. Hi Marissa, when did you start giving Puma Interferon? My cat Wolfie has Leukemia, was diagnosed as a kitten. He will be 5 this May. He’s now showing complications of the disease; eye problems. I was wondering if Interferon would benefit at this stage. Worth a try. Where do you purchase yours?
        Thanks and glad to hear your success! The positive posts bring hope!

    4. Did you look into Omega Interferon from Europe? It has to be imported and it can be expensive. There are people who say it worked for their cat. I am also going to enquire about “Ozone Therapy” it supposedly cured several cats with FeLV as well.

  5. Thank you so much for all the information about those cats that lived long term. My Sylvia, 7-month old adopted from a kill shelter, was diagnosed today and what seemed a routine trip to vet for a possible food allergy. She was also diagnosed with Colitis, so I now you she was Godsent, as I was diagnosed with Colitis a year before we got her. Completely empathetic to her situation because I was misdiagnosed for two years and felt like the doctors were just throwing my life away like just another number. Sylvia is my children’s first pet and a third child to me. She was feral and extremely reclusive when we brought her home. I spent the better of two weeks coaxing her out of hiding and nursing her with a respiratory infection while the shelter told us just bring her back to us and we’ll “trade her out”, basically. Well I knew what that meant. Just fortunate God gave us the forsight to stick by her side. I told my kids, “mommy wouldnt just give up on you if you didnt come as perfect as I expected”. Dont know what to tell them yet but no matter what the outcome she will have the best last days that she can.

  6. Great article. It’s nice to see other who have had success housing vaccinated negative cats with positive cats, and I’m also glad to see others giving these cats the chance they deserve.

    About a year ago, I found a lovely little long-haired tortoiseshell near my boyfriend’s house. I’m pretty sure that she used to belong to one of his neighbors and that they abandoned her when they moved a few weeks prior. She was incredibly sweet and friendly, but definitely underweight, so I took her home, hoping to get one of my friends to adopt her. But soon enough, she won all of our hearts and earned a permanent place in our home, where she was named Molly.
    I had two boys at home, so I kept her separated from them for the first two days, just until I was quite sure that she was healthy, and then I let her have normal reign of the house with the boys. When I dropped her off at the vet’s to be spayed, examined, and vaccinated, I decided to have her tested for FIV and FeLV just in case, because I knew there were a lot of feral cats in the area I found her. I really wasn’t expecting anything positive though – she seemed totally healthy! But she came up with a ‘light positive’.
    On the test, a dot will turn blue if the cat tests positive, and her test returned a very light blue dot, even upon retesting a couple months later.

    I was heartbroken and sick over it. Molly was the best cat I’ve ever had, and it killed me to know that she had this. Especially once I started researching FeLV online and found so much awful information and horror stories. People were saying that she should be euthanized, and I should NEVER even consider housing her with FeLV- cats, vaccinated or not.

    However, I decided to keep her and just make sure that my boys are always up-to-date on their vaccines. (They were already vaccinated against FeLV a few months prior, thankfully.) She was a wonderful cat, I already loved her, and I couldn’t just get rid of her because of her virus status. Who would ever want to adopt her knowing about it, anyway? She’d never have a chance. I was her only chance, and I couldn’t give up and take that away from her.

    Now she’s going to be 2 in a month, and so far she’s completely fine. Really, my veterinarians never made it sound too awful, nor did either ever mention euthanasia or say that I shouldn’t house her with my other cats. She goes in for her vaccines and exam at least once or twice every year, they check her a little more slowly and thoroughly than they might for a normal cat, and that’s all. They always seem quite surprised, but pleased when she checks out with a totally clean exam, and I think both the vet and I breathe a sigh of relief when it’s done. Then they tell me to keep doing what I’m doing, not to hesitate to call if I notice any changes or have any questions, and they send us on our way.
    I think that my vets know enough about the virus that they don’t consider it an immediate death sentence, since they never made it into a huge deal and recommended euthanasia or getting rid of her. However, judging by how they act around Molly, it seems like they don’t get to see very many FeLV+ cats that have been as healthy as long as she has been. I really hope we keep surprising them. Regardless of how long Molly lives, I’ll be there with her through it, and I’ll be sure to make whatever time she has into the best life that I can give her.

    I’m in college to be a veterinary technician now, and Molly is kind of my inspiration. Because of her, I’m dedicated to informing other cat owners about FeLV – Preventing it with the vaccine for one, but also to help provide information, experience, and HOPE to those who may receive the unenviable diagnosis. I’m hoping for a cure someday, but until then, the best thing that we can do is make sure that we inform people to the best of our ability and try to stop the spread of not only the virus – but all of the hysteria and false information surrounding it.

    1. Thank you so much for such an inspirational post. I’ve just had my two cats test positive, one is very sick and just had a transfusion and the other, her brother, seemingly very healthy. I’m devastated. Would love any advice or help you can give me

  7. Thank you all for sharing your stories. I’ve been combing the Internet for the past few days looking for information and first-hand stories. The other night, my husband and I rushed our 14-year-old cat to the emergency room–she collapsed from weakness that we found out was caused by anemia. After testing, we were shocked to learn that she was FeLV positive–she tested negative as a kitten and was vaccinated for the virus. Apparently, she has been latent all these years and only just now has shed the virus with complications. After a few blood transfusions, she is stable, and the vets cannot find any other secondary infections that may have caused the anemia. So we’re hoping that they can prescribe a treatment that will help. We were given the option to euthanize her–not because of her positive status, but because of the potential costs involved in diagnosis and treatment. We’re hoping for the best.

    But we have five other cats in our home, so now everyone must be tested. I’m so afraid for the others, but after reading your stories, I feel more hopeful. All my cats get along well, so I would hate to separate them and if they can potentially live together via vaccination and treatment, then that’s what we’ll do.

    1. Hi! Reading your story about your cats. So sorry to hear. What was the final outcome with all the others?

  8. Thank you for this. I just found out that my 7 year old cat has been FeLV positive for the 4 years that I’ve had and loved him. He came from a hoarding situation of about 40 cats so naturally I had him tested before introducing him to my others. I never would have thought he was sick the whole time, but he’s indoor only and has never left my house. I kept having him tested for parasites and ear mites due to his drooling and his diarrhea. This was NEVER on my radar. My vet thought he had a diaphragmatic hernia the other day when he could hardly breathe. When he opened him up to repair it he found lymph fluid in his lungs and abscesses throughout.

    I have been kicking myself for the last day (I found out yesterday) that I inadvertently may have spread this to my other cat. I went in today and the vet had a syringe ready to euthanize, but as soon as I started petting him he began purring. My vet says you don’t put a happy animal down. I agree! While I’m completely heartbroken I’m happy to see that your animals made it so long. I haven’t had my other cat tested, but I plan to soon.

    Thanks again.

  9. My mom had a beautiful little kitten with leukemia, his name is Charlie. We got Charlie when he was three months old, he had a eye infection at the time. We thought it would just go away with medicine, it didn’t. Charlie was suppose to be a friend to my younger brothers, a pet they could grow up with. Charlie passed at 7months. The people we got him from could not care less. The best thing for Charlie was that he had a home and was loved so much for the months he lived. We always said we would keep him no matter what, as long as he felt no pain. One of my brothers has a pretty bad and often seizure condition, when we told the boys about Charlie he said he got sick sometimes and so does Charlie. He thinks him and Charlie were meant for each other, a little sick kitten for a sometimes sick boy. Charlie was the hardest thing we have ever dealt with, I have never met a cat like him. He was so sweet and loving. Charlie died when his liver shut down, he could not eat, drink or pee anymore. We tried droppers of liquid and ivs for him, it just didn’t work. Our vet told us we could try a few more days with pretty much shoving liquid down his throat, we all decide it was just time for Charlie. On the day Charlie passed I was on the couch with him, I asked Charlie if he was going to pull through or not, he just placed his head on and shut his eyes. I knew we could not let him be in pain, we made a promise to him. Our biggest fear was coming down stairs one morning and Charlie had passed by himself. We all went to the vet and stayed with Charlie until he was gone.

    Its been a year since Charlie passed we have a new kitten, Tucker. We seem to have some luck because our vet believes Tucker should also be check for leukemia since his mother was a outside cat. We have to wait three weeks for Tucker to get tested(age). If he has leukemia, he will have one great long or short life with us.

    Rip: Charlie, orange beautiful tabby. Loved to act like a dog, would greet when you enter the home. Love to put his paw down in the change bottle. Major liter boy lol. This cat would jump in the liter pan and throw liter everywhere even when he wasn’t using it. Brought so much joy to two little boys.

    We made the decision to let Charlie go to a better place for the benefit for him. Keeping him alive when he was really sick would of been selfish of us. I believe putting a cat down with leukemia for the fear of what’s to come is wrong. Every animal has to pass at some point.Why does it matter if its leukemia, cancer or getting hit by a car? Every life has a meaning, no matter how short. Charlie has forever changed ours.

    1. Courtney
      I have a very similar story-My cat Patrick was an orange tabby, who was a real rascal and a great cat. When we got him he also had an eye infection and an upper respiratory infection. He also had chronic constipation problems, but with all that was the happiest guy I have ever known. He tested negative for FeLV as a kitten and we thought he was on the road to recovery. when he was 2 he got a terrible eye infection, which led to corneal ulcerations. He was a trooper and made it through the eye surgery, but a month after he had a few seizures. I took him to vet and blood tests confirmed he was FeLV positive. I was stunned. Poor Patrick remained happy but he dropped weight fast and he only made it 3 more months to the age of 2 1/2 and we had to put him down, and he purred to the end. He was a true survivor. He was found in the engine of a car, and was born with 3 paws and a back stump, which never slowed him down. Your story reminded me a lot of my friend Patrick who is gone now 2 weeks, but I am very grateful of my time spent with him, he definitely changed my life forever.

  10. People these little babies need us. I just buried my Kiki,2 yrs. Felv. Vet said to put down 2 yrs. ago. Hell No. there is still plenty of love left in these cats. if you are a real cat person, you will try to keep them alive as long as possible.

  11. I read all of these comments. I cried a great deal. We, animal people are a bunch of saps 🙂

    Anyway…insert rescued little barn kitty into my life last week now known as Quinnie. She is sweet, playful and eats like a pig of I let her. Took her to the vet and she tested positive for FelV. I am crushed just as all of you are and were. There is no way I would EVER have her put down. She will live her life happy in my home!

    I do have questions though. She is estimated at about 3 1/2 months old. Vet said we will test her again in a few months as it is possible that she could rid herself of the disease. Is this even possible? I am not finding too much information on that so I assume it is probably rare.

    Breaks my heart when I look at this little baby all full of joy…

  12. Absolutely great article! Thank you and keep putting this information out there! I will do the same. I recently had the same situation happen to me. And it didn’t end well nor did it end the way I wanted it to. I plan to let more people know about this because it is more serious than people know, inclusive of myself.

    1. There is a newly approved drug that can reverse FeLv. Been in U.K, Europe, South America for awhile. But just now in the U.S. Here is the link. I urge you to have a look. There’s also a link on the website to find a vet in your area that administers it.

  13. A male semi-feral tabby cat adopted us by living on our front porch in the winter time. We named him PK, for Porch Kitty. One day he was very sick, so I took him to the vet and they said he had a rhino virus. I also found out he was FeLV+. This was confirmed with a positive IFA test in November 2011. Two 1/2 years later, PK is a full-fledged member of our household and still exhibiting his normal energy and behavior. However, I worry about him and watch him like a hawk, because I absolutely dread the day he is diagnosed with lymphoma. His blood panels are ok, but not great. His hematocrit is low — his vet thinks because he has fleas that could be causing anemia. We are currently treating him with a low-dose flea collar and waiting on test results for possible bartonella infection. We also just started him on Interferon to boost his immune level, at the suggestion of our vet. I am not ready to lose my Peaky. I sincerely hope he turns out to be one of the 15% that survive with this virus for many years.

    1. There is a newly approved drug that can reverse FeLv. Been in U.K, Europe, South America for awhile. But just now in the U.S. Here is the link. I urge you to have a look. There’s also a link on the website to find a vet in your area that administers it.

    2. Ann

      You may have already seen my post below about using Winstrol (Stanozolol) but if not, I would do that for your cat. Winstrol is very good in getting the bone marrow to turn back on again and to produce red cells, and that will help with the low haematocrit. It will also help with his energy levels and his appetite. The Interferon is quite expensive, and at least for us, it did absolutely nothing as we were closely monitoring our little boy’s blood work on a weekly basis. The Winstrol, on the other hand, is not particularly expensive (although many vets don’t know it and therefore some may not know where to source it). Just my 2 cents’ worth.

  14. Thank you for sharing your story. My boyfriend and I rescued a little 3 month old kitten (about 4 mths ago) who was on the brink of dying. He had dried up snot COVERING his entire face & ended up testing positive for Felv. We weren’t giving up on him though! We had him re-tested just the other day (4 months after the initial testing) but he still had it. We did what you mentioned & actually brought him to a feline only cat practice and I’m so glad we did. The vet informed us that since he was running a slight fever & had enlarged lymph nodes (common signs in a felv+) it was in his best interest to hold off on his vaccines & neutering as of right now & sent us home with antibiotics. We are waiting to see if they help rid his body of these early signs. We have had him in a separate room (basically a king’s suite) because we do have 5 negative cats of our own. We were scared at first of having the virus transmitted, but after reading hundreds of articles I am comforted in knowing that direct contact is the only true way of transmission. I know both vets were inclining that we euthanize, but my boyfriend & I were not putting down a cat that still has life to live. We named him Rain, because I grabbed him while it was raining back in March. We love him so much & he has the sweetest personality. We are prepared & happy to give him a home for however long he has left to live. Your story was very touching & I’m so glad there are people out there who also believe that every life matters.

    Best wishes for you & all of your kitties,


    1. There is a newly approved drug that can reverse FeLv. Been in U.K, Europe, South America for awhile. But just now in the U.S. Here is the link. I urge you to have a look. There’s also a link on the website to find a vet in your area that administers it.

  15. Wow……I thought I was the only one….
    Last June, the very end of a very hot June, we kept hearing a desperate kitten crying but when we would go to find it ..nothing. So I thought it was one of the feral cats kittens but after almost 2 days I could hear it weakening and knew it needed help.
    I was able to trap it almost immediately, it was so tiny and so hungry and a spitball of fire. I fell in love with her. I have 7 other adult cats and she was named BK (Baby Kitty) for the last five months she has tortured all of them. Leaping out at them, attacking their tails, trying desperately to get them to play. She sleeps right next to me and stretches her little arms over head as though she’s trying to hug me.
    Well my other cats are all indoor/outdoor and come and go as they please and BK who is an amazing little energy ball, was starting to follow them out so I made an appt at the vet for her shots and spaying, I also noticed her not opening her right eye all the way.
    While we were there I asked why she was so thin and told him about her funky breath and the weird little bumps under her skin on her neck. He said they had to test her first before she got her shots but gave me some meds for her skin. Two days later they called and told me she tested positive for FeLV and advised euthanasia…. I was stunned, what are you talking about….NEVER! She is fine we just came in to get her her shots
    That was ONE week ago and now my precious baby kitty barely moves, her eyes are swollen, she eats very little and sleeps. She doesn’t bother the other cats anymore, she doesn’t play at all. She just crouches and dozes and moves to a new spot in the room. She is even running away from me because of having to give her meds. She is not even six months old yet. I guess the low weight, sour breath, skin lesions, her eye together spell out FeLV . I don’t understand why she is so sick so quickly. We had to have all the other cats tested which are all neg. I am beside myself and don’t know what to do. I want her back. Today she stopped purring. I’m not giving up on her.

    1. There is a newly approved drug that can reverse FeLv. Been in U.K, Europe, South America for awhile. But just now in the U.S. Here is the link. I urge you to have a look. There’s also a link on the website to find a vet in your area that administers it.

  16. There is a newly approved drug that can reverse FeLv. Been in U.K, Europe, South America for awhile. But just now in the U.S. Here is the link. I urge you to have a look. There’s also a link on the website to find a vet in your area that administers it.

  17. I am hoping that posting about my experience may help others. I had a cat with leukemia, and he lived to the age of 7 and died from something else. When the vets told me that they could do nothing for him as a kitten dying with leukemia (and he was dying – his red cells were dropping down to nothing and I had given him TWO blood transfusions that weren’t holding up his numbers to any great degree) then as a last ditch effort, I tried some Winstrol I had in the cupboard that a previous vet had given to me for another cat. The Winstrol – Stanozolol – turned him completely around. We were performing weekly blood tests on him – CBC, liver function, etc – and his red cells and white cell counts began to climb very quickly after giving him the Winstrol. It was totally amazing and the vets couldn’t believe the lab results either. My beautiful little boy was out of the woods in about six months. We were desperately constantly checking the pinkness of his ears, gums and pads to check the status of his profound anemia, and to our unbelievable joy, he began to get pink and his lab results just kept getting better. After about a year, I called back the internal medicine veterinarian we had seen, and who had told us there was no hope, and told him of our beautiful cat’s recovery. To my surprise – and a little bit of anger – he said that I had gone “old school” and that Winstrol used to be used but then there were rumours of possible liver damage associated with it, and vets stopped prescribing it. This REALLY annoyed me. My cat was dying and no one thought that maybe, just maybe, some treatment – even with a potential side effect – was better than no treatment??? In our experience, on a few occasions the liver enzymes would indeed rise, but would drop back down to normal fairly quickly after a short break from the Winstrol. We monitored our beautiful Zander very closely during and after his initial crisis, and if I thought that maybe he was looking pale again, or if the CBC came back with a significantly dropping red cell count, we would put him back on the Winstrol for a 4 to 6 week period, and it would fix him right up.

    The Winstrol also really helped to increase his appetite so I could get him to eat when he was so very sick.

    I used it at a level of 1 mg two times a day when he was really sick, and when he started to recover, I cut it back to 1 mg a day, or even 1/2 mg a day for a maintenance dose. I would often pair it with prednisone as well.

    I look have looked after an awful lot of strays in my time and I have a background in science and microbiology and laboratory medicine, so I tested and analyzed these findings with this knowledge. I have since used Winstrol in my cats in a number of other situations where vets have told me there is no hope, and I have to say that it has come through more often than not.

    I therefore could not understand the reluctance of the veterinary – and medical community for that matter – to consider Winstrol, especially in circumstances where you are telling pet owners that there are no other options and their kitten or cat will die.

    I have had to do a fair amount of internet research and spoken to a number of veterinarians about this. I have personally concluded that due to the association of Winstrol with athletic doping scandals, the scientific community as a whole has decided to abandon what might indeed be a promising drug. This saddens me but I simply can see no other explanation. I mean really – does it make sense to hear from vets that the drug MAY cause liver disease, when your animal is dying???? Wouldn’t you give that option in those circumstances, and let the pet owner understand the risks??? Personally, I think that this risk is hogwash and the information I have been able to find – buried so very deeply as to be almost unable to be seen – point to any change in the liver enzymes as to be transitory and not representing any lasting liver damage, and that was certainly our experience. Because Zander’s condition was so dire, even when his liver enzymes started to go up, I decided to keep him on the Winstrol because I could see that his bone marrow had turned back on again and he was producing red cells (his reticulocyte level started to go up from basically a zero level). He was eating and looking better, so I grit my teeth and proceeded with the Winstrol. I suspect that many vets might have abandoned ship at that point, and pulled the Winstrol before it had had an opportunity to really have the desired effect, but my vet was at least good enough to recognize that if this treatment didn’t work, my cat was out of luck, and she allowed me to continue on with the Winstrol since Zander was doing better in so many other ways.

    This was also our experience when I used Winstrol in another very elderly cat who had a sarcoma in her sinus cavity, and again who was not expected to live very long. She lived another 3 years after the diagnosis, and I believe that the Winstrol helped immensely in getting her to keep eating, and to keep the swelling under control. With her, we definitely found that her liver enzymes spiked dramatically with the use of the Winstrol, but settled down immediately with a brief discontinuance of the drug.

    Indeed, with Zander, he died at age 7 from cardiomyopathy – nothing to do with his liver. I tortured myself with thoughts that maybe the Winstrol had caused the cardiomyopathy, and for all I know, it did. However, I could not find any suggestion anywhere that Winstrol might do that, so it is just a guilt I have to live with (as I do with EVERY sick cat I have ever looked after and didn’t make it – I am always sure it is something I did or didn’t do). Nonetheless, if I had to do it again, I would without a doubt do it again. He was about a year when he was teetering on the edge of death. His haemoglobin was down to 5 – or 50 for those who are familiar with the lab units used in Canadian labs. He lived another six glorious happy and very healthy years. I think if I did it again, I would probably reduce the length of time I put him on the Winstrol when he had relapses after his recovery from the initial crisis, just in case.

  18. My cat Sammy was diagnosed with Feline leukemia as a kitten. He began to lose weight a month or so ago but we thought he was just getting older (13 years) and did not show any sign of illness. We came home from outing yesterday, he was gasping for air. Rushed him to vet but he died in transit. He had a good long loving life…much more time than we could have hoped for. They can live a long life if given a chance.

  19. My Oreo is FELV. He was negative at 8 weeks old but turned positive at 31 weeks. Actually he is 9 years old. He has been sick 2 times when he was a kitten, fever and runny nose. The vet gave him shots of immunoglobulin and I supported his meals with 4 transfer, and so far he is ok.

  20. Brockovitch, after reading about your expereiences with Winstrol, I convinced my vet to let me try it on Salem. He is almost 2 and had been healthy (felv +) until recently. I took him in when he had a seizure of some type. The bloodwork was scary…hct of 8 by their machine. Then the vet tech manually counted it…hct of 12. He had another seizure while they were getting chest rads. She sent him home with phenobarbitol for seizures, doxycycline and prednisone. That was june 30th, he spent a week and a half being assist fed. On the 16th of July we started the Winstrol, he began eating on his own and then PLAYING.

    Thank you for spreading the word. I plan to have bloodwork done in a month, I do not want to stress him right now with a vet trip…. keeping my fingers crossed !!!

    1. Thank you for your post, Lisa. I don’t see another one from you so I am crossing my fingers that you got some improvement in the blood results. Definitely, my experience is that my cats all perk up dramatically on the Winstrol, and they eat and play and put on weight. For that alone, the medication is worth its weight in gold.

    1. Lisa,

      I am emailing back and forth with another cat lover who is trying hard to bring her FeLV cat back from the brink. She lives in Wisconsin but managed to find a compounding pharmacy all the way down in Arizona (Diamond Back Pet Pharmacy), which will provide Winstrol with a vet prescription (but I think the vet has to order it online), and will mail out the meds. However, they don’t have it in the tiny white tablets I am used to using. They have it in liquid form and chewable tablets.

      I wondered where your vet got your Winstrol? There is another person in New York trying to get Winstrol for her cat, and her vet told her it is not available in the U.S. Obviously, this is incorrect, but is not surprising given how little attention the vets give to this medication.

      Can you help out by posting information about the source of your Winstrol?


      1. My source with my vet’s Rx is thru a local compounding pharmacy that my vet uses.
        They put it in capsules for me.
        Tiny ones that are
        easy to pill. My suggestion is for them to look for a local human comp. pharmacy. Thats what ours is, they do not mail order though. They are very helpful, Good luck to the 2 kitties you are helping out.

        1. Hi Lisa

          Thanks for the info. Would you mind sharing the name of the compounding pharmacy you used please? From the information I am getting from people contacting me about getting Stanozolol, few compounding pharmacies carry it (and yes – I provide both names to them). One woman was even told by her vet that you can’t get Stanozolol in the United States at all, which is of course wrong.

          I am collecting the names of helpful pharmacies so that when people are contacting me from different places in the U.S. and Canada, I may have some options for them to provide to their vets. The vets themselves are often unfamiliar where to order this medication.

          The compounding pharmacy you used also provides you with pills, but as I mentioned in my previous post (I think), the woman whom I am trying to assist and who got her meds from a compounding pharmacy in Arizona, wasn’t given an option of pill such as the ones you have described.

          Thanks again, Lisa.

      2. Forgot to add…I am in Indiana. I
        am sure there must be human comp. pharm’s that could help them out. Have to ask for Stanozolol though…they don’t recognise the veterinary form Winstrol.

  21. Hi Brockovitch, Salem improved throughout Sept. 2015, so ( I am STILL kicking myself…) I decided to back him off the Winstrol to one a day. Then in late Sept, he crashed on me, I immediately restarted Winstrol twice a day..

    Wasn’t enough, I lost him on the morning of Oct. 7th.
    The cruelest part was that he improved so well and quickly the first time, and I second guess myself about reducing the amt. of Winstrol. I really miss him, he had his quirks but that was just him…

    Thanks again for providing the info, I have it available to me if I need it again…

    1. Lisa

      I am so sorry to hear about Salem. It is heart breaking. Thank you for your kindness in posting to tell us about your experience with Winstrol, despite the sad outcome for you. I really think this is a good option with leukemia, and as I mentioned in my earlier post, I have used it with good effect in several other critical situations with different cats – almost always with an excellent outcome.

      I’m so sorry your experience wasn’t more positive. I agree with you that I think it is probably essential to keep a very sick cat on the Winstrol long term, until the lab results return with good results several times.

  22. I had a cat for five years that my husband in quite literal sense risked his life to save who ended up being FeLV positive. We didn’t know about it and one day she got really sick. We immediately took her to ER vet when he got home. She was too far gone so she had to be euthanized. I miss her, but I would rather her cross the rainbow bridge than be in pain.

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  24. Thank you for your article! We adopted two kitties, a senior Bailey and a young adult Zelda, from a rescue in December. The rescue tests them for FeLV and FIV, both were negative. We found out this week our littlest Zelda is actually positive for FeLV. She had been in the hospital since Monday with a fever and respiratory infection, which today is finally back to normal. Anyway, after doing my research, my vet and I had the discussion on what was best for her. I have a good vet that is in his words ‘optimistic’. We tested Bailey and she was neg so she got vaccinated immediately. Zelda’s immune system was not on either end of extreme and was functioning. Plus she is tough! At only 7.5 pounds she is a pistol. Neither of us were ready or willing to give up yet. She is home eating and recovering and I am very thankful.
    I am sorry for your loss. It was hard for me to read yesterday the statistics on life expectancy, however as you said I cannot imagine not having their joyous presence and yes their lives do deserve respect. Zelda and Bailey have only been in our lives for 5 months and it has been a rough go so far already, but I do not regret for a single second the decision to bring them home. They make me laugh every single day!
    Thank you again for your kind words, they truly helped when needed.

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  26. Hi everyone, I found a kitten who was in a ditch May 27, 2016. I cleaned him up and took him home. I have two other cats. We went to the vet and had shots and boosters. I told the vet how the kitten came to be mine. Nothing was said about feline leukemia. I noticed after four months he would walk a short distance and sit down. Appetite and fluid intake was still good. Back to the vet and he was treated for tape worms. Well on October 12th he started to have loose stool, and his coat changed. I went to the vet again. He was tested for leukemia and came back a strong positive. His temp was 105. The vet said he would not get better. I stayed with him as he was put to sleep. My heart is broken and I miss him so much. He was my little buddy. I had no idea something so horrible could happen! My other cats are a female and male they have had vaccinations, but will that help them?

  27. Hi.I read this article with tears streaming down my eyes that i can hardly type….My 3 year old cat was diagnosed with both felv and fiv. The most healthiest cat in my household and the baby of them all. The vet looked at me and said the wisest thing to do was to euthanase considering that I have 2 more cats at home. I chose to bring nugget home so that I could care and love and nurture him and so that he could live his life until he decides its time. I didn’t want that to be my decision. It has now been little over a month and I can see the changes in him. He has his on and off days. There are days where I have to carry him to his litter box, hand feed him and then there are days where he runs around the house being chirpy. I have made huge adjustments at home to make it comfortable for him and have separated the other cats as far as I can but its been challenging. I read many articles and researched on my own as to how to care for him and although its hard at times, I learn each step of the way. Some days I sit and just cry my heart out and then there are days that I thank him for being so strong and fighting this. I will do whatever it takes to make his life little bit easier and comfortable and for as long as he wants to be around…I love him to bits!

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  30. I wish i would of found this a few days ago. My cat suddenly fell very ill. He had fluid in his chest and stopped eating. I tried to help him but it was to no avail i didnt want him to suffer anymore. The glow in his eyes were gone. He was isolating himself from us and he was the most affectionate cat. He tested positive for felv. I wish i would have been able to try winstrol.

    I have heard belfield mega C plus has been successful in reversing feline leukemia. I have five other cats as well and am very worried they could get the virus as well.

    R.I.P Smokey <3 Love you!!!

    Best of luck to all of you and keep up the good fight.

    1. Sounds to me like even though he was FeLV positive, he probably died from FIP, another retrovirus. FeLV doesn’t present with fluid in the chest.

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