Lily’s Leukemia

Before anyone gets really worried, Lily is a cat and she is doing very well.  Promise.

So a while back, my girlfriend Emily really wanted to adopt a dog.  She was moving into a new apartment that allowed pets and she’s always loved animals and wanted to adopt.  Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to commit to a dog so she decided on a cat.  Emily volunteers at the local animal shelter Paws so she was very close to all the animals.  The hard part was finding the one for her.  So in her search, she didn’t go for the pure breeds or the prettiest looking one, she ended up picking this tiny little cat who was isolated from all the other cats due to her illness.  On the outside, Lily looked fine and acted like any other cat.  It was what was happening on the inside that made her different.

As I sat on the couch playing with Lily and her toys, I always forget that she has an illness.  She plays like every other cat, sleeps like every other cat, and purrs like every other cat.  So this promoted me to look into her illness a little bit more to better understand it.  My initial understanding was that feline leukemia was similar to human leukemia.  Human leukemia starts in bone marrow and results in an abnormally high number of immature white blood cells.  Unfortunately, there is no exact cause for leukemia as there are several kinds and we have yet to find a cure for this deadly disease.

Feline Leukemia on the other hand, depresses the immune system and leads to infections and other disorders.  Similar to human leukemia, the number of white blood cells are either abnormally high or low which leads to disease and tumors.  While I looked into it more, originally doctors thought that feline leukemia was similar to human leukemia but it turns out to be pretty different.  The biggest difference is that feline leukemia is contagious with two potential fatal problems; immune system failure or tumor development.  It is very infectious and hence why Lily was separated from the rest of the cats.   But if you look at the picture below, you couldn’t tell that there was something going on inside.


I had so many questions.  Is it treatable, is it terminal, what things do we have to do to keep her well?  So I wanted to read up on it to learn more.  I knew I had to use hand sanitizer when I walked into my girlfriends apartment but I didn’t know the difference it made.  Turns out, it is very treatable and Lily is going to be just fine.

Some quick facts about feline leukemia to give you a better sense:

  • Kittens under 4 months are usually most susceptible to feline leukemia
  • only about one-third will die from infection
  • kittens can get the virus through their mother or through saliva
  • about 1-2% of the feline population will have leukemia

Moral of the story, make sure you have your cat tested if its under four months for leukemia.


Work Cited

“College of Veterinary Medicine – Cornell University.” Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV). N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2016. <>.

“Feline Leukemia in Cats – 1800PetMeds®.” PetMeds® Pet Education. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2016. <>.



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