All About FeLV and FIV

Is FeLV and FIV as scary as the name suggests? What should I do if my cat is FeLV and/or FIV positive? In this article, Dr Angeline Yang shares some insights into FeLV and FIV and how cat guardians can manage the condition.

What is FeLV and FIV?


FeLV is an abbreviation for Feline Leukemia Virus, which can pose various risks to cats. If a cat tests positive for FeLV, they may have a higher likelihood of developing cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma. The virus can also affect their bone marrow and suppress their ability to produce red blood cells. Generally, FeLV-positive cats tend to have a weaker immune system compared to healthy cats. However, there is a subgroup of FeLV-positive cats known as regressive FeLV cases. These cats have normal blood work and can lead lives similar to that of a healthy cat.


FIV stands for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, which shares similarities with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in humans. It’s important to note that FIV cannot be transmitted to humans or other animal species. Cats that test positive for FIV typically have a weakened immune system, making them more susceptible to infections. But, do not panic! With proper care and minimal stressors, FIV-positive cats can live normal lives.

How is FeLV and FIV being transmitted and how to prevent transmission


FeLV Transmission:

  • Direct Contact: FeLV is mainly transmitted through prolonged close contact with an infected cat. This can happen through mutual grooming, sharing food and water bowls, or bite wounds during fights.

  • Mother-to-Kitten Transmission: Pregnant cats can pass the virus to their kittens during birth or nursing.

Recent studies have revealed that the susceptibility to FeLV follows a bimodal pattern, primarily affecting young and old cats. Middle-aged cats have shown a lower likelihood of getting infected with FeLV.


It’s important to note that FeLV-positive cats do not continuously shed the virus. Shedding of the virus can be intermittent, and there have been cases where cats successfully fight off and clear the virus from their system. These instances demonstrate that the immune system of some cats can effectively combat FeLV and eliminate the infection.


Prevention of FeLV Transmission:

  • Testing: Cats should be tested for FeLV, especially before introducing them into a multi-cat household. This helps identify infected cats and minimise the risk of infection spread.

  • Vaccination: Vaccination plays a crucial role in preventing FeLV infection. An effective vaccine for FeLV is available and it is recommended to administer annual boosters. If you already have introduced a FeLV-positive cat into a multi-cat household, it is advisable to vaccinate the other cats against FeLV. By vaccinating the negative cats, the risk of FeLV transmission may be minimised.

FIV Transmission:

  • Deep Bite Wounds: FIV is most commonly transmitted through deep bite wounds inflicted during fights between cats. It is less commonly transmitted through casual social contact.

  • Mother-to-Kitten Transmission: Similar to FeLV, FIV can be transmitted from an infected mother cat to her kittens.

Prevention of FIV Transmission:

  • Testing: Cats should be tested for FIV, especially before introducing them to a multi-cat household. Testing helps identify infected cats and prevents the spread of the virus.

  • Limit Exposure: Keep FIV-positive cats separated from FIV-negative cats to prevent transmission. Minimise the chances of fights or deep bite wounds between cats

FeLV and FIV viruses do not survive for long in the environment. General and regular cleaning will get rid of them.

How to manage FeLV and FIV in cats? 

FeLV and FIV positive cats can live like normal cats and enjoy a long fulfilling life!  Here are some tips to caring for them:

  • Schedule regular check-ups with your veterinarian (once a year or once every six months) 

  • Keep them indoors to minimise exposure to other diseases

  • Stay up to date with vaccinations and preventives (e.g. deworming and flea treatment). These measures will help protect their weakened immune systems from other health issues

  • Provide them with a clean and stress-free environment

  • Monitor for health changes. Consult your vet when you observe changes in their behaviour and changes such as weight loss, decreased appetite and lethargy. 

Articles images (1)

Should I adopt a FeLV or FIV positive cat?

FeLV and FIV positive cats deserve love and care just like any other cat! If you already have a FeLV/FIV positive cat, we encourage you to consider adopting another positive cat. They can form wonderful companionship and bring joy to each other’s lives. Many Felv/FIV positive cats do not get adopted and you will be helping to save an additional life! 

For those contemplating adopting a single cat, it’s important to remember that choosing a FeLV/FIV positive cat can be a fantastic decision. These cats have an abundance of love to offer and can bring immense happiness to your home. Don’t let their positive status discourage you from embracing them with open arms.

Every cat, regardless of their health condition, deserves a loving home. With proper care and support, FeLV and FIV positive cats can lead fulfilling and content lives. Embrace the opportunity to provide a forever home to these special cats and experience the unconditional love they have to give.