Did you know that cats can catch leukemia and AIDS? In terms of leukemia, it is however not a cancer as it can be seen in humans, because it is caused by a virus. The feline leukemia virus belongs to the family of retroviruses, as the virus FIV (feline immonideficiency feline or commonly call AIDS). Those viruses have the ability to change the DNA of cells they infect.
Your cat can catch leukemia if it is in direct contact with urine or saliva from another infected cat. Just two cats share a bowl of water so that the virus is transmitted. For contracting AIDS, there must a bite in 95% of cases. It would be possible to transmit the virus through contact saliva / blood and blood / blood. The virus is always present in the blood and the saliva of the animal. For cats that go outside, even if they don't go far, the risk of catching these diseases is very high because of the number of stray cats. For those who remain inside, the risks are less present but still real. May your cat runs away from home a day or may you bring to a place where there are other cat that comes into contact with the virus. Leukemia can even be contracted when a cat spits in the face of your cat, although safe behind the door or window screen!
Once it infected an animal, the virus will attack the immune system. And the animal will be more at risk of getting secondary infections. Because it can change the DNA of the cell that it infects, the virus can also cause certain types of cancer.
Clinical signs may not always be the same and sometimes take years to manifest. Most of the time, the infected animals will however be presented clinically for diarrhea, vomiting, because they eat less and have no energy. Note, however, that cats with feline leukemia or FIV can live up to six years before becoming ill.
Unfortunately, the disease is always fatal and there is no cure. Palliative treatment and support may however be given to relieve and maintain their quality of life.
The best option to prevent your cat from catching the disease remains preventive vaccination. Vaccines should be given twice a month apart when the cat is young and then repeated every year. You will have peace of mind!
Léane Bleau Bouthillier, Certified Veterinary Technician
A cat can be infected with a leukemia and AIDS virus (FIV) from others cats