There is a group of cat enthusiasts that considers Bengal cats to be immune to leukemia.
But do Bengal cats get leukemia? They certainly do. The Bengal breed can contract FeLV as easily as any other breed. Typically, this is a breed that thrives in the outdoors and hence they could become infected by other cats or could pass the virus along to them.
This article will further highlight the points to assess you in understanding what this virus is and how is your pet at risk of catching it.
The Felv Disease and its development in Bengal cats
FeLV is known as a retrovirus, meaning that it rewrites a cell’s RNA to copy itself onto the DNA.
Once it has done this, it cannot be reversed, fixed, or otherwise cured.
FeLV is also the leading cause of infectious disease death in domestic cats.
Cats afflicted with this lethal disease can, in rare cases, live for several months or even years. But most of them only last a few weeks after diagnosis.
This mostly varies from cat to cat.
However, a leukemia-afflicted Bengal cat’s lifespan can also be heavily influenced by:
- How soon the disease is detected
- The medical treatment used
- The age and health of the cat before diagnosis
However, the virus becomes inactive quickly after the secretion becomes warm and dry.
Hence, a cat has to be around and interacting with an infected cat to contract FeLV.
This virus can only be transmitted from cat to cat, humans, and canines are immune to FeLV, but each has its version of the disease.
Grooming and fighting also seem to be one of the commonest ways for the infection to spread.
Kittens can also contract the disease in the mother’s womb or through an infected mother’s milk.
Apparently healthy cats often spread the disease.
So even if a cat appears healthy, it may be infected and able to transmit the virus.
Older cats are less likely to contract the infection because resistance seems to increase with age.
For indoor-only cats, the risk of contracting FeLV is very low.
Cats in multi-cat households or in catteries are more at risk, especially if they share water and food dishes and litter boxes.
Symptoms of Feline Leukemia
Now the question arises:
How can you know that your cat has caught this lethal virus?
Here we are going to list down the basic symptoms of this disease.
Cats infected with FeLV may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:
- Pale gums
- Yellow color in the mouth and whites of eyes
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Bladder, skin, or upper respiratory infections
- Weight loss and/or loss of appetite
- Poor coat condition
- Progressive weakness and lethargy
- Breathing difficulty
- Reproductive problems like sterility in unspayed female cats
- Stomatitis (an oral disease)
Testing Methods for feline leukemia
There are two methods of FeLV testing which are commonly used.
The first is the ELISA (kit) test, which is done right in your veterinarian’s office.
The second is the IFA (Hardy, or slide) test, which has to be sent out to a diagnostic laboratory to have the results determined.
Both tests look for a protein component of the virus as it circulates within the bloodstream of the animal.
The ELISA test can detect FeLV in the primary stages before the cat’s bone marrow has become infected.
At this time, the cat’s immune system still has the opportunity to fight off the virus.
This test can also detect FeLV in the later stage of the disease when the virus has invaded the bone marrow.
At that point, the prognosis is grim, and the cat is considered infectious to other cats.
The IFA test detects the FELV virus primarily in the second stage.
The best measure to take against FeLV is to vaccinate any cat, including Bengals, on the premises.
It may not be 100% effective, but it is shown to be reasonably effective in preventing FeLV infection if a vaccinated cat is exposed to it.
The vaccine causes the immune system to recognize and offer protection to cats.
Most kittens are vaccinated between nine and ten weeks and then again between 12 and 14 weeks old.
Only a yearly booster is recommended in preventing most cats from acquiring the virus.
The myth that Bengals are immune to Feline Leukemia virus is debunked.
The importance of the breed is then put on vaccinated for the health and safety of a Bengal cat and other cats that come into contact with it.
Protecting your cat from feline leukemia
As mentioned above:
The best way to protect your cat from this virus is to vaccinate it.
However, there are other measures as well that are helpful in the process.
The primary method for protecting your cats is to remove any FELV-positive cat from other cat breeding pool completely.
You should also follow strict quarantine procedures including separate utensils, housing, litter pans for the FELV positive cat, and thoroughly washing your hands, clothing, and shoes after handling and caring for the FELV positive cat.
Do not breed a FeLV positive cats.
If you lose a cat to FELV, it is recommended that you wait 30 days before bringing in a new cat.
Only after the area has been thoroughly scrubbed and disinfected with a solution containing 4 ounces of household bleach per gallon of water, rugs vacuumed completely, and all litter pans, food dishes, bedding, etc. have been replaced can you bring a new cat home.
Is there any cure for Feline Leukemia?
Unfortunately, to date, there is no cure for FeLV, although remarkable progress is being made and much research being done.
Although there are some therapies that have been shown to decrease the amount of FeLV in the bloodstream of affected cats, these therapies may have significant side effects and may not be effective in all cases.
You need to work closely with your veterinarian to decide what is the best course of treatment for you and your cat.
You should also be aware that there are some wonderful support groups on the Internet for people living with FeLV-positive cats.
The best you can do is stop the infected cat from mingling with other cats and in the process, transmitting the virus.
Diagnosis of Feline Leukemia
A diagnosis of this virus can be heartbreaking for you.
It is important to realize that cats with FeLV can live normal lives for prolonged periods of time.
Bengal cats usually survive for 2.5 years after FeLV is diagnosed.
Once your cat is diagnosed with FeLV, you need to carefully monitor its:
- Activity level
Any signs of abnormality in any of these areas should prompt immediate consultation with a veterinarian.
Why do we commonly hear that the Bengal cat is immune to the FELV Virus? The Bengal breed was originally a cross between domestic cats and a small exotic wild cat known as the Asian Leopard Cat in the 1970s to study the feline leukemia virus.
The Asian Leopard Cat seems to have a natural resistance to the feline leukemia virus, but sadly the resulting crosses and the modern Bengal breed did not retain this trait.
Bengal cats are susceptible to the feline leukemia virus just like any other breed of cat.
Can my cat catch this virus if I keep it indoor? Although not impossible, the chances of this are quite minimal.
According to a survey, only 3 percent of the cats in a single cat household catch the virus. However, if you have multiple cats, the chances will yet again increase.
The virus may be lethal, but if timely precautions are taken, you can save your pet from the dangerous effects of it.