Viral Infections in Cats, Rabies, Felv, and FIV

There are a handful of viral infections in cats that are particularly dangerous because they usually cause near 100% mortality. Most of these viral infections can be prevented simply by keeping your pet indoors. In fact, indoor cats have nearly twice the life expectancy of outdoor cats. In part, that is because they are not as likely to be exposed to these severe viruses if they live indoors.


Rabies is the most obvious virus to be concerned about since it’s contagious to people. It is spread via saliva or bites from the infected animal to another. Cats are particularly more likely to be exposed to rabies because they roam more when outdoors, and therefore are more likely to be exposed to infected animals. Here in East Texas, bats and skunks are the primary wild source of rabies infection. Obviously, if your cat is not currently vaccinated, GET HIM VACCINATED SOON!

Felv infection

Feline leukemia virus is another very dangerous viral infection in cats. The mom can give the virus directly to her kittens, but it can also be spread through cat fights and through water and food bowls, and common litter areas. As with rabies and FIV virus, Felv is not a curable disease. Although a few cats may spontaneously throw off the virus, fatal infection is more the norm. There are many symptoms of Felv that would mimic other common problems. Unexplained fever, certain types of cancers, a distemper like syndrome, and general loss of wellness are just a few symptoms of this virus.

FIV infection

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is another usually fatal virus in cats that, again, is most commonly acquired by cat fights. It is as common if not more common than Felv infections in the U.S. FIV is in the same broad family as the human HIV virus. It can manifest itself in many ways since it depresses the immune system of the cat.

There are other viral infections in cats we could discuss (feline distemper, feline upper respiratory viruses, etc.), but the common denominator of these three is that they are highly fatal, and can usually can be prevented by keeping your cat indoors. Even if it’s not practical for your cat to never go outside, if you can get your cat back indoors at dark when most cat fights occur, prevention of infection from these three viruses is usually effective.

Finally, here at the Rannals Small Animal Hospital in Whitehouse, we have an in office screening test for Felv and FIV for your cat. It requires a quick blood draw and only takes a few minutes to get results. We highly recommend that every new cat coming into your household be screened for these 2 viruses. And this is especially important when you already have feline pets in your home. For questions call us at 903-839-7235.

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