Feline Leukemia Symptoms
Recognize the Signs

This is an overview on feline leukemia symptoms, the disease progression and the prognosis of a cat with this contagious disease.

As the FeLV virus suppresses the immune system you can expect to see a multitude of non-specific signs and symptoms which we will attempt to deal with here.

Cat leukemia or rather FeLV is not a blood cancer, but rather a retrovirus that causes cat diseases like leukemia, malignant tumors (lymphosarcomas) and a host of other related feline health problems.

For the purpose of better understanding, we have divided the feline leukemia symptoms looking at various scenarios:

scenario 1

Once the cat has come into contact with FeLV, the virus lies dormant in the cell DNA of the host cat for several months or several years before presenting with any symptoms.

In the dormant stage, there is no sign of feline leukemia.

scenario 2

In very rare cases and depending on the cat's age, health, immune system and nutritional status, the cat might be successful in fighting off the infection and develop natural immunity.

Whilst the cat is fighting off the virus, he may not be his 'normal self' and the signs of feline leukemia may even go unnoticed by the cat's owner.

If tested, the virus will be found in the bone marrow, but the cat will generally not present with any symptoms unless the cat becomes immuno-compromised or if the cat is under undue stress.

Cats in this 'category' generally have a good prognosis and a normal life expectancy.

scenario 3

Once the cat has come into contact with FeLV, the virus will enter via the skin and enter the lymph glands and nodes.

The virus will reproduce before entering the blood stream and over a 3 - 6 week period it will spread throughout the body.

This is known as the viraemic stage and the cats will present with symptoms of a general infection.

Feline Leukemia Symptoms include:

  • raised temperature
  • loss of appetite
  • lethargy and reduced level of alertness and activity

The disease then progresses to the lymph system, the intestines, the spleen and the bone marrow. 

The cat's immune system becomes severely compromised and the following cat leukemia symptoms will present:

  • pyrexia (raised temperature)
  • fever
  • loss of appetite with resultant weight loss
  • enlarged lymph nodes and glands
  • bladder infections
  • conjunctivitis - an inflammation of the membranes of the eyelids
  • mouth ulcers
  • gingivitis - an inflammation of the gums
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea - frequent loose stools
  • failure of wounds to heal and reoccurrence of abscesses
  • pale gums may signify anemia, which indicates reduced red blood cells and iron
  • queens may naturally abort their kittens
  • Lymphosarcomas (cancers) in various organs for e.g. the thymus gland which is situated in the chest.  If this organ is affected,  the cat may suffer from breathing difficulties.
  • Tumors of the intestines are more common in older cats and will result in a tender abdomen.


If the cat of kitten's immune system is unable to survive this, the cat will perish from disease complications associated with infections, anemia or lymphosarcomas.

The bottom line is that there is no cure for this contagious cat disease.

There are probably sub-strains that may be less or more virulent and this will determine how quickly the infected cat or kitten will die from the disease.

Every cat will respond differently and this will be determined by a host of factors.

Any sign of illness always needs the expert advice, diagnosis and treatment from a veterinary practitioner.

Related Pages:

Feline LeukemiaTreatment

Top of Feline Leukemia Symptoms

Return to Feline Leukemia Virus



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