Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up


The Pet Health Community and Pet Health Center are NOT substitutes for a vet visit. Contact a vet in an emergency! | Dog Conditions A-Z | Dog Symptoms A-Z | Cat Conditions A-Z | Cat Symptoms A-Z

Remember Your Beloved Pet
Includes Expert Content
questions about feline leukemia
hotkatt posted:
If I forget to clean my cats litter boxes what could happen to her? Could it make her sick? How long can a cat have leukemia before it is found out that she/he has it? Does she/he need to take any special medications? Do I need to put her on a special diet?
Drew Weigner, DVM, ABVP responded:
I'm guessing from your post that your cat has been diagnosed with Feline Leukemia. If so, that's not good news. Feline Leukemia is a virus that is transmitted primarily from one cat to another, so it's very unlikely to be transmitted by litterbox as it lives only a short time in the environment. This virus affects a cat's immune system, like FIV in cats and HIV in humans. Once infected, it only takes a few weeks before it can be diagnosed with a simple blood test. Most cats will be clinically normal for about two years. What happens next is quite variable: some cats become anemic, some lose weight and run fevers, some suffer from infections they used to be able to fight off (gum infections, ear infections, etc.) While these symptoms can sometimes be treated, there is no treatment for the Feline Leukemia virus itself and it is eventually fatal. If possible, it's best to keep these cats indoors, away from other cats. This decreases the likelihood the cat will infect other cats, but also minimizes it's exposure to other infections. If there are other cats in the household, they should also be tested and, if negative, vaccinated against Feline Leukemia. So sorry to hear about your cat!

Drew Weigner, DVM, ABVP
The Cat Doctor
Board Certified in Feline Practice
hotkatt replied to Drew Weigner, DVM, ABVP's response:
Thank you so much Dr. Weigner for your information. I do feel a bit better about her now. My cat was a stray that we took in 2 years ago and I don't know why her previous owner got rid of her but she is a sweet kitty. She's a tortie-calico and she's 7 now. I'm hoping that she will be around for awhile longer. She has been having some breathing problems last few days mostly when she is sleeping or laying down. She sounds congested. Since we've gotten her fixed she has seemed to put on a few pounds which is good for her cuz you could feel her rib cage and back bone! Should I get her checked out by my vet to make sure there isn't anything going on with her?
Home2strays replied to hotkatt's response:
In case Doc doesn't get on here soon- I would take your kitty to the vet, something like a simple cold can turn into pneumonia in an immune compromised animal- better to nip it in the bud : )
Sandy Willis, DVM, DACVIM replied to hotkatt's response:
Hi there,

If your kitty is still having respiratory problems, I would take her in. Difficulty breathing is a serious problem; generally that is due to lung problems or fluid around the lungs. Congestion from nasal problems can result in some discomfort and rapid breathing, but tends to be less severe. Congestion can often be caused by respiratory viruses, and can make the kitty very uncomfortable. So if she is still having problems, take her in to your veterinarians.

Dr. Sandy
hotkatt replied to Sandy Willis, DVM, DACVIM's response:
Thank you Dr. Willis, I was concerned there for awhile about my kitty. She doesn't seem like she's having problems breathing when sleeping. She has been laying around more that usual but I'm thinking that its because of the leukemia. She seems to also been keeping to herself last few days too. Could it be more than the leukemia?
Drew Weigner, DVM, ABVP replied to hotkatt's response:
All of the above responses are correct. In addition, it's not uncommon for cats with Feline Leukemia to become anemic. This can also cause increased respiratory effort (like deep breathing) as well as lethargy (like staying to herself.) I think it would be a good idea to have your veterinarian take a look at her. All of these possibilities are easy to diagnose.

Drew Weigner, DVM, ABVP
The Cat Doctor
Board Certified in Feline Practice


Drew Weigner, DVM, ABVP, is one of the few board-certified feline specialists in the nation, having practiced medicine for more than 25 years. Weigner...More

Helpful Tips

milk in nursing dogs
My chihuahua had 6 puppies on April 22nd and now seems to be running out of milk. Two of the six are not gaining weight and will not take ... More
Was this Helpful?
1 of 2 found this helpful

Helpful Resources

Be the first to post a Resource!

Related News

There was an error with this newsfeed

Report Problems With Your Medications to the FDA

FDAYou are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

Learn more about the AVMA

WebMD Special Sections