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C2006-18

Dear Christopher Cat

Friends’ cats have feline leukemia (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). If I pet them, can I take the viruses home and infect my own cats? How common are these viruses?

Christopher Responds

After Mom handles FeLV- and FIV-positive cats at work, she washes her hands. She hasn’t brought the viruses home to us, and if you follow her lead, your cats will be safe, too.

A study of more than 18,000 American cats found that 2.3 percent were positive for FeLV, and 2.5 percent were positive for FIV.

More cats from veterinary clinics tested positive (2.9 percent FeLV, 3.1 percent FIV) than cats from shelters (1.5 percent FeLV, 1.7 percent FIV).

As you might expect, sick cats tested positive (6.3 percent FeLV, 6.1 percent FIV) more often than apparently healthy cats (1.6 percent FeLV, 1.8 percent FIV).

Prevalence was higher in mature cats (3.3 percent FeLV, 4.1 percent FIV) than in youngsters (1.4 percent FeLV, 1.0 percent FIV).

Males tested positive (2.7 percent FeLV, 3.6 percent FIV) more frequently than females (1.9 percent FeLV, 1.4 percent FIV).

Not surprisingly, pet cats that ventured outdoors were more likely to test positive (3.6 percent FeLV, 4.3 percent FIV) than indoor-only cats (1.5 percent FeLV, 0.9 percent FIV).

To protect your cats, keep them indoors.

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