V: Virus’ in the Cat World

A2Z-BADGE [2016]

V: Virus’ in the Cat World

Viruses in our beloved feline friends are not fun. They’re hard on us as caretakers, and also can be a financial hardship. We learned the hard way about Calicivirus, when we took in a new rescue that was sick. We usually get our new rescues checked right away, but this came at a time when funds were tight, so we broke our own rule. Fortunately, the rest of our feline family survived our ordeal. It consumed us for over a month, caring for the others as they fought the virus. About two thousand dollars later, everyone was alive and finally healthy. You can read more about our Calicivirus trauma here.

Two other virus’ to watch for are Feline Leukemia Virus, and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. Here’s a bit about these virus’ and symptoms to be aware of. For more information, see this terrific ASPA site, Common Cat Diseases.


Feline Leukemia Virus (FelV)

First discovered in the 1960s, feline leukemia virus is a transmittable RNA retrovirus that can severely inhibit a cat’s immune system. It is one of the most commonly diagnosed causes of disease and death in domestic cats. Because the virus doesn’t always manifest symptoms right away, any new cat entering a household—and any sick cat—should be tested for FeLV.

Signs of FeLV

Cats can be infected and show no signs. Others may exhibit:

  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Pale or inflamed gums
  • Poor coat condition
  • Abscesses
  • Fever
  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Changes in behavior
  • Vision or other eye problems
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Reproductive problems (in females)
  • Jaundice
  • Chronic skin disease
  • Respiratory distress
  • Lethargy


Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

An FIV-infected cat may not show any symptoms for years. Once symptoms do develop, however, they may continually progress—or a cat may show signs of sickness interspersed with health for years. If your cat is demonstrating any of the following symptoms, please have examined by your veterinarian:

  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Anemia
  • Weight loss
  • Disheveled coat
  • Poor appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Abnormal appearance or inflammation of the eye (conjunctivitis)
  • Inflammation of the gums (gingivitis)
  • Inflammation of the mouth (stomatitis)
  • Dental disease
  • Skin redness or hair loss
  • Wounds that don’t heal
  • Sneezing
  • Discharge from eyes or nose
  • Frequent urination, straining to urinate or urinating outside of litter box
  • Behavior change



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