How Long Can a Cat Live With Feline Leukemia?

Updated March 13, 2019
Vet holding a cat

How long a cat can live with feline leukemia depends on several variables. Feline leukemia is technically a terminal illness that can have devastating effects on your cat's immune system, and the complications that arise from the condition are eventually fatal. Although there is no cure for this disease, there are some simple efforts a cat owner can make in order to slow down the illness and strengthen a cat's immune system during the progression of the illness.

Feline Leukemia Life Expectancy Is Difficult to Determine

white cat

So, how long can a cat live with feline leukemia? There is no exact answer to this question because the physiological makeup of each cat is different.

  • It is estimated that 85% of cats with feline leukemia will die within three years of the infection being diagnosed by a veterinarian.
  • Survey research found the average survival rate of FeLV-infected cats was 2.4 to 2.5 years.
  • Strong cats typically survive longer because their immune system deteriorates at a slower pace.
  • Weaker cats that were more susceptible to illness prior to their infection with leukemia will usually run through the illness faster and experience more suffering during the latter phases.
  • Kittens younger than eight months old are particularly susceptible to fast-paced deterioration if they are exposed to feline leukemia.
  • Although not all cats become infected, young kittens have weaker immune systems that are still developing, and they experience a higher rate of infection. So, you can expect that a kitten may suffer faster and more thoroughly from leukemia than a strong adult cat.

What Can a Pet Owner Do?

The most important question to ask lies less with your cat's longevity and more along the lines of what a pet owner can do to make his cat more comfortable and strengthen the immune activity.

Protect Your Pet From Communicable Illnesses

The first vital step any pet owner can make in fortifying a cat's immune system is to keep the cat indoors. This advice extends to otherwise healthy cats that are not infected with feline leukemia. Indoor cats live significantly longer than outdoor felines. This is partly due to the fact indoor cats are not exposed to the cocktail of harmful and communicable cat illnesses that lie waiting in the outdoor environment. Maintaining an outdoor animal may initially seem like a good idea because many people believe cats need to roam as they do naturally in the wild. However, wild cats frequently suffer from illnesses and often lose their lives to predators. So, keeping your cat indoors is probably the better of the two options.

Outdoor Cats Are at Higher Risk of Other Illnesses

A cat infected with feline leukemia cannot be expected to survive long if he remains in an outdoor environment. A simple flu virus or infection can have extremely deleterious effects on the cat's weakened immune system, thus spiraling the cat into a debilitating state. Not only does this hurt your cat, the numerous vet visits to treat these uncontrollable secondary infections become very costly over time.

Provide Good Nutrition

Paying close attention to your cat's diet and ensuring that the food she eats is free of chemicals, sugars, and harmful by-products can also slow the progression of feline leukemia. Many commercial cat food brands are loaded with unnecessary chemicals and preservatives, not to mention that the quality of the meats used are typically not fit for human consumption. A cat that is sick and weak should only be fed the best and most nutritious foods.

About Feline Leukemia

By the time a pet owner is searching the Internet regarding the longevity of a leukemia-positive cat, he is typically already well familiar with the condition. Thus, there is no need to belabor the illness' details beyond the most important point: feline leukemia causes immunosuppression. When an illness is capable of impairing, and eventually crippling the immune system, pet owners need to prepare for a barrage of symptoms. Nearly any secondary illness can occur in a cat with immunosuppression.

Secondary Infections Can Shorten Lifespan

From kidney disease to mouth ulcers, a cat that is in the last phases of feline leukemia will be sick and suffering an onslaught of secondary health conditions. It's vital for pet owners to understand the concept of immunosuppression because the degree of immunosuppression is what determines the longevity of a cat with feline leukemia.

Your Cat's Quality of Life Matters

When it comes to dietary and lifestyle changes, it's more important to consider your pet's quality of life rather than the actual progression of the illness. Whether a cat dies quickly or slowly is not nearly as important as how much your pet may be suffering. Even the best environmental and dietary changes will not cure the illness, but they can sometimes do wonders in reducing the amount of complications that arise from immunosuppression.

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How Long Can a Cat Live With Feline Leukemia?