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I'm new... dealing with Feline Leukemia

October 26th, 2010, 09:32 AM
This is my first time here. I joined this forum because I need a lot of help and support.

Yesterday we put one of our "babies" to sleep. Yoshi was a 1 and a half year old male cat, and one of two "babies" that I rescued at 3 weeks after their mother (a barn cat where I board my horse) disappeared. We bottle-fed Yoshi and his brother Spud and raised them to be just the best cats, always affectionate, never mean or standoffish...vets always commented on how healthy they were etc. They always received prompt care and attention, and we thought we were doing everything right....but recently Yoshi had begun to lose weight and become lethargic. A blood test a few days ago revealed fluid in the chest, possible tumour, and Feline Leukemia virus. All along I had been thinking we had taken all precautions to giving them a healthy long life; I had no idea about this virus and was blissfully unaware that they had never been tested or innoculated if it is a risk!

Anyways, after spending a heart-breaking but worth it last two days with Yoshi, we let him go. We are not only grieving his loss, we are dealing with another devasting reality: Spud has also tested positive for the virus, and although he is healthy now, we know he has a bomb inside him that can go off at any time. Our 4 and a half year old cat Sherman is thankfully negative, but now we are in a position where we have to
(a) keep our last two "babies" together, and take the risk that Sherman, although he is now being vaccinated, will eventually get the disease, or
(b) find a new home for Spud that is catless so he does not spread it

I feel totally at a loss as to what to do. I want desperately to keep the two cats with us, just as normal. However, I do not want Sherman to suffer the same fate. He has already been at risk for the last year and a half that the kittens have been here. I need some advice, support, kind words, whatever you have to give. I would love to also hear stories of those in the same boat, statistics, positive outcomes etc.

Thank you so much.

October 26th, 2010, 10:20 AM
I am so so sorry for all you are going through...what an impossible decision :wall:

I don't know anything about this so can't offer any sound advice but will keep you in my thoughts as you try to figure out what to do.

I am sure some more knowledgeable members will be by soon to help. In the meantime you can always use the forum's "search" function to find posts from other members who have been through something like this.

Good luck :goodvibes::goodvibes:

October 26th, 2010, 10:52 AM
Sorry to welcome you here under these sad circumstances. Run free little Yoshi, you gave your human family lots of love before you had to leave. :pray::rip:

We have a lot of very knowledgable cat people here that you will get all the info you will need. If they do not know the answer they usally iknow where to send you for that.

Please give us pics of your kitties :pray::pray:. patti

October 26th, 2010, 11:22 AM
I am sorry you have gone through this. It is never an easy decision to let a much loved pet pass over. :candle: :rip: Yoshi :candle:
Here is some information about the virus. If your cats have lived together up to this point I would think Sherman would already have it. As long as they don't out and out fight and Spud has been ok I would leave things as they are. JMO.
Please note more than one testing should be done to determine if the virus is truly present.

October 26th, 2010, 11:31 AM
This is my first time here. I joined this forum because I need a lot of help and support.

Welcome to, but I'm sorry that it isn't under better circumstances. :grouphug: One of my most beloved cats as a child died from FeLV, before there even was a vaccine for it. He was a stray that followed me home from school.

Our 4 and a half year old cat Sherman is thankfully negative, but now we are in a position where we have to
(a) keep our last two "babies" together, and take the risk that Sherman, although he is now being vaccinated, will eventually get the disease, or
(b) find a new home for Spud that is catless so he does not spread it

I vote for option A. Cats develop a natural immunity to FeLV as they age, so the fact that Sherman doesn't have it is a good sign. I'd even caution you on too many vaccinations for it (or at least urge you to only use non-adjuvanted ones), since they've been implicated in deadly vaccine-associated sarcomas (not to scare you, but it's something to be aware of).

The stress of rehoming Spud may also quicken his demise.

You might consider joining a Yahoo group on this topic, since caregivers of FeLV+ cats often have greater insight into their care than many vets do:

Is Spud on any medication or supplements? Immune system boosters can be helpful. Also diet is a very important factor. Feed him the best food you can: species-appropriate meat based wet food. Stop all kibble, if he's currently getting any. More info on diet here:

All the best to you and Spud and Sherman. So sorry for your loss of Yoshi. :candle:

October 26th, 2010, 01:44 PM
I am so sorry to hear of your lose. The feline leukemia virus is a nasty thing. My husband and I had to put a kitten to sleep as well when she was just a year old cause the virus attacked her system. Your other little one could live a full and healthy life despite having the disease. Others are right. I think your other one will grow an immunity to it as he ages. One thing i did when we had the kitten with leukemia was keep her food and water and litter box separate from the others. Granted we kept her in the bathroom when we weren't home/sleeping so they wouldn't fight and take the chance our other two would get the virus. I don't have a lot of experience with having them together because we only had her about 6 months before she died. Good luck and welcome to the board. Wish it could have been under better reasons.

October 26th, 2010, 05:49 PM
Thank you all for your kind and sincere replies. I am feeling very numb right now and one of the things that is keeping me feeling "human" is knowing that others care. So thank you.

The websites have been helpful, as have others I have visited, but it is still hard to make a decision. Everyone seems to think different things. Even the vet advised against keeping them together, but the vet tech said she would just go on as normal. I agree with the poster who said moving Spud might be so traumatic as to quicken his demise. And Sherman has lived in very close quarters with both kittens for so long (Yoshi even gave him a daily cleaning; apparently cleaning is the #1 way to transmit the virus) and without vaccination, so it does make me think he has built up immunity. But I don't want to be wrong and have him go too soon as well. It is so hard and I just don't want regrets.

One person suggested keeping them "partly" separated, and this sounds appealing to me. As in, keep them apart when we are not here, separate food/water and litterboxes. This is doable in our house. Just wondering if people think that is enough?

Other questions I have:

When should another testing be done on Sherman to confirm the negative?
Do I test often, and how often?
How often do I vaccinate against this?
What are the names of some immunity boosters I could start giving them both?

Thanks in advance.

And here are two pictures of my babies. Sherman is the orange tabby, Spud is the black and white, and Yoshi is of course black. And yes, they are polydactyls! Front and back!

October 26th, 2010, 05:52 PM
What beautiful kitties :cloud9::lovestruck:.

I don't have any advice to offer, but sending you lots of :goodvibes: and :pray: for your kitties.

October 26th, 2010, 06:58 PM
Such beauties, cats+horse. :lovestruck: I have no advice, either, but wish you all the best! :grouphug:

October 27th, 2010, 09:54 AM
I'm currently going through the same thing with my foster kitty.
I've had him since 16 weeks old, mingling with my 2 other cats.
He started out with eye infections and upper respiratory infection and those kept recurring. Finally after getting his 3rd eye infection I took him back to the vet only to find out he has Leukemia. The vet recommended that we separate him from my other cats since the diagnosis. I dont' even know if my two cats caught it either even though they've been vaccinated.

Right now he is in a room all by himself with his own litter box, food and water.
I feel terrible keeping him apart as he is very social and loves the company of cats, humans and dogs. I'm trying to find a home for him now through the rescue but it will be difficult. He won't eat wet food anymore either. My other kitties sometimes sit on the other side of the door to keep him company and i see a paw swipe out at times. Its so sad because he's all alone most of the time...

I feel your pain!

October 27th, 2010, 03:39 PM
I feel your pain.
I know how it feels to lose them, and to worry so much when they're sick and the uncertainty and then see the end coming, it is hard, very.
All I can say is I understand you and I'm with you.
Be strong and blessings for you and your beautiful kitties.

The cat in my avatar picture's name is Yoshimi, also known as Yoshi like your baby <3

October 27th, 2010, 04:24 PM
little black yoshi was beautiful,so very sorry you lost him:rip:little boy:candle:
i have no experience with feline leukemia,just wanted to let you know,i feel for you and your beautiful kitties,hopefully there is no need to separate them:pray:

October 28th, 2010, 03:39 PM
Thanks very much everybody :lovestruck:

We have thought long and hard about everything, done lots of research, and consulted many, and have made our decision. The major swaying point was the fact that we think Spud will probably be so stressed with a move that it would quicken his demise, and we can't lose another at this point. We are going to keep the cats together, with conditions.

The conditions are:
- when we're away, the cats will be separated (one up, one down)
- when we're here, they will be allowed to be together, but
-no litterboxes
-no food or water (except hand fed treats, and drinking from the tap)
-no toys unless we are playing with them directly
-cats will be allowed to sleep together, cuddle and play, but won't be allowed to roughhouse or groom (not a problem as they don't usually)
-if we're here for a long period of time, or the cats are starting to get rough with each other/need to eat, they will be separated for a while
-both cats will get regular checkups, shots for Sherman, and immunity boosters as parts of their diet
-bedding will be washed regularly and litterboxes cleaned daily
-both cat's "litter areas" will be completely closed off to the other cat, not just the box put away

I'd love to hear input, positive or negative, on our decision and conditions. Have we forgotten anything? Thanks! :grouphug:

October 28th, 2010, 03:54 PM
Also just wondering how long a cat takes to develop antibodies to a vaccine? When will it be "safe" to start our "conditions"?

October 28th, 2010, 07:38 PM
Sounds to me like you're making the right choice.
You seem to be a caring person about your animals so I'm sure you'll do good in being careful handling the 2 cats living together.
Enjoy every moment with your pets <3 and blessings

October 29th, 2010, 08:49 AM
Hi, cats+horse. Your kitties are all beautiful.:lovestruck: I'm so sorry for the loss of Yoshi.:grouphug:

I strongly support your decision to keep Sherman and Spud together. As you said they have already been together for a year and a half. I have no experience with FeLV. However, one of my three cats was diagnosed FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) positive this year. My three are together and I wouldn't have it any other way.:cloud9:

As for FeLV, according to the following quote from Dr. Lee the natural protection of an adult cat against the virus is about 85% even if it has never been vaccinated:

FeLV Vaccine.

Once cats reach adulthood, they naturally have protection against FeLV. It is also about 85% or so. This means that if you have a 2 year old cat who has never gotten a vaccine in his or her life, the cat has 85% immunity against FeLV anyways. Thus for adult cats, FeLV covers that small 15%. This is why I do not recommend it for cats that are indoors and older than 2 or 3 years of age. Since the FeLV vaccine by Merial is also recombinant, then it is also safe. This vaccine uses a needless device to deliver the vaccine. If the FeLV vaccine comes in an injection, it is adjuvanted and should NOT be used.

Have you already had Sherman vaccinated for FeLV or are you waiting have another test done to see if it still shows negative? Please make sure that he gets the Merial recombinant non-adjuvanted vaccine. If your veterinarian doesn't have this in stock he can order it.

Here is more information from Dr. Lee's website that explains why you do not want to use adjuvanted vaccines:

and a pdf with some more information on the Merial FeLV vaccine.

Should another testing be done on Sherman to confirm the negative?
Do I test often, and how often?
How often do I vaccinate against this?
What are the names of some immunity boosters I could start giving them both?

Also just wondering how long a cat takes to develop antibodies to a vaccine? When will it be "safe" to start our "conditions"?

Dr. Lee is a very knowledgeable veterinarian who generously volunteers his time on this forum. I also had a lot of questions when I learned of Punky's FIV diagnosis and Dr. Lee was of tremendous help and an invaluable source of information. He is the best person to answer some of your questions particularly the ones regarding frequency of tests and FeLV vaccinations for Sherman, how long it takes for the initial vaccination to become effective, etc. I will PM him about this thread. He has had an extremely busy schedule lately so it may take a day or two for him to answer.

Immune system support starts with an optimum diet. What are your kitties eating now? Two very safe supplements that you might want to add for both Spud and Sherman are Omega Fatty acids and a good probiotic such as Natural Factors Ultimate Multi. There are products for immune system support such as Transfer Factors (either Human Classic or Trifactor) that you might want to consider looking into for Spud (I'm sure there are other similar products and you might want to consider having a consultation with a good holistic veterinarian in your area to see what suggestions he/she might have for you).

Some info on Transfer Factors:

scm also suggested a yahoo support group for FeLV that you might want to join if you haven't already. I have recently joined a support group for FIV. Knowledge is power.:)

FeLV, like FIV, is unpredictable and it is possible that Spud will remain symptom-free for many years to come. :goodvibes::goodvibes::goodvibes:

November 6th, 2010, 07:40 PM
Thank you all so much again. The support from all of you has been amazing :cloud9:

Things are going pretty well around here and we are adjusting to life without Yoshi. Spud and Sherman are ok with being separated when we are not around; everyone has adjusted quite well to the new normal.

I admit that I am now a massive worrywart. Every sneeze, every droopy look etc. and I FREAK OUT and automatically think one of the cats is dying. :frustrated: However, it could happen anytime... Today I felt a hard lump in Spud's stomach. It is about the size of a golf ball and moveable. I have checked a few times since - sometimes it's there, sometimes it's not?!?!?!? I feel like I'm going crazy. He was just carefully checked for tumours a week and a half ago - is it possible that a tumour could grow that quickly???