Of the 3.4 million cats that enter shelters each year in America, over 40% of them are euthanized. Any kill shelter that takes in an FeLV positive cat will put them down immediately. Many veterinarians will recommend/suggest putting a cat or kitten to sleep as soon as they test positive for the virus. But, is FeLV a death sentence? Is it inhumane to make them live with this virus?
Let’s explore the truth behind Feline Leukemia Virus.
First let’s discuss the testing that’s done in these shelters and in most vet offices. There are two tests that they use to determine if a cat is FeLV positive. One is called a Snap test and the other is called IFA (indirect immunofluorescent anitbody). Most shelters run a Snap test on cats before intake. A Snap test determines if the virus is present in the cat’s system – but it cannot determine what stage the virus is in.
So, essentially a cat or kitten could test positive for FeLV via Snap testing because they were recently exposed to the virus – and could be fighting it off. Many cats who test positive this way, if given the chance, will fight off the virus and test negative on the second round. Both tests need to be run in order to determine the truth behind the diagnosis and the stage at which the virus resides.
Can cats really fight off the virus? Is FeLV a death sentence?
A big, resounding YES. It happens every day. Other FeLV positive cats live to be 20+ years old with the virus. Over 40% of cats with FeLV will successfully shed the virus from their systems.
What we need to realize is that FeLV is a virus that mainly effects the immune system of cats. Most cats who pass from this virus die of lymphoma or some other terrible illness to which their weak immune system left them susceptible. By supporting their immune systems through diet and nutrition, many cats will not show a single symptom of FeLV. Other cats will shed the virus completely and some will continue to test positive but not even be a carrier (meaning it’s no longer contagious).
So when people ask me “is FeLV a death sentence” my answer is always “Not. At. All.” I get so upset when I hear veterinarians or animal social workers say that FeLV is a death sentence and euthanasia is the most humane route to take. It may be the laziest route to take. It may be the least expensive route to take. But, killing a cat because he/she has a virus, is the most inhumane route in my opinion. Comment below if you agree.