Feline Leukemia in Cats (FeLV)

2 min read
Jan 17, 2022

What is Feline Leukemia?

Feline Leukemia, also known as FeLV, affects a cat’s immune system and is cancer-causing. This is a lifelong disease which can be treated but never cured.

Are There Any Breeds Particularly Affected?

There are not breeds particularly affected by FeLV; however, males are more likely to contract FeLV than females. FeLV is also mainly seen in cats aged one to six.


The symptoms of FeLV are based upon the type of Feline Leukemia the cat has. There are three types as follows:

FeLV-A: Type A occurs in all cats and weakens the immune system.
FeLV-B: This occurs in about 50 percent of cats and results in abnormal tissue growth
FelV-C: This is not common but results in severe anemia.

Cats can have only Type A but Type A may also be accompanied by B and or C. Generalized symptoms include:

  • Lethargic behavior
  • Weight loss
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Diarrhea
  • Ear infections
  • Unhealthy coat
  • Fever
  • Gum inflammation
  • Fibrosarcoma

Causes of FeLV

Feline leukemia is contagious meaning it can be transferred from cat to cat via a bite, close contact, grooming and/or sharing a litterbox. Kittens will also contract FeLV if the mother cat is FeLV positive.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Your veterinarian is not likely to immediately believe your cat has FeLV. First, your veterinarian will check for bacterial, parasitic, viral and fungal infections. A blood screen will be performed as well as a urinalysis and a biopsy.

If your cat is diagnosed with FeLV, your veterinarian will prescribe medication to treat the symptoms of FeLV but the cat will always be FeLV positive. An annual vaccination following this visit to prevent respiratory and intestinal viruses will be recommended. The cat often does not require veterinary hospitalization unless there is a secondary disease or infection to treat. For example, if your cat has a low red-blood cell count, a blood transfusion may be necessary. A special diet may also be recommended.

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.

2 Provided all terms of the policy are met. Application is subject to underwriting review and approval. Like most insurance policies, insurance policies issued by IAIC and MetGen contain certain deductibles, co-insurance, exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force. For costs, complete details of coverage and exclusions, and a listing of approved states, please contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC.