Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)

House of Dreams cares for many cats who carry the Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV), because we believe they deserve a chance at a rich, happy life. That’s not the case in many places where, because of lack of information or understanding about FeLV, they routinely would be euthanized.

FeLV is a retrovirus so it's not itself a disease. It can compromise the immune system, making a FeLV-positive cat more susceptible to diseases. But a FeLV+ cat can live a healthy, active, normal life with no special treatment.

The virus affects only cats; dogs, other animals, and humans cannot contract it. It spreads among cats through close and prolonged contact, for instance by fighting, or breeding. FeLV+ mothers often pass the virus to their kittens. It could affect life expectancy, but there have been no studies that have followed naturally infected cats, because most of the times the cats were euthanized when the virus was first detected. And at House of Dreams, as well as other rescue organizations, FeLV+ cats generally are living out a near-normal life span.

The virus is fragile, does not live for long outside of the cat, and is hard to transmit between cats. Still, it's recommended that FeLV+ cats have their own separate living quarters, which is what we do at House of Dreams. We do not recommend housing FeLV+ cats with negative cats to eliminate the possibility--however remote--of spreading the virus. The most important factor in keeping an FeLV+ cat healthy is holistic support--a high-quality diet, a low-stress home, and lots of love! We recommend staying on top of an FeLV+ cat’s health and getting regular vet care and checkups. And we highly recommend giving FeLV+ cats the forever home with the life and the love they deserve!

► Here's a deep dive into what the virus is from two expert researchers at the University of Florida

A summary of current research into the Feline Leukemia Virus as of mid-2018, from the Winn Feline Foundation.

► Best Friends Animal Society has a comprehensive FAQ about FeLV here

(updated November 2019)