What should I do with a stray cat with leukemia that seems healthy?

Our question this week was:

Dr. Debra, I was given a stray cat this weekend and after a few days we have already bonded. Maximus is my first pet. Unfortunately after a routine check up I learned he has leukemia. The last thing I want to do is put him down but I don’t want to be selfish. What do you suggest? He doesn’t appear to be suffering.

Mandy Watts


Hi Mandy – thanks for your email. It sounds like this new stray “Maximus” is your only cat, which is good. The fact that you like him and he seems healthy is also excellent.

If he is eating well, playful and you are happy with him – I’d have him checked by your veterinarian (you may have already since you know he tested positive) and keep him. I’d retest him in 3 months.

One of three things happens to most cats with leukemia. About 1/3 of cats will fight the leukemia and test negative in 3 months. Another third of cats will have leukemia that becomes inactive in their system and is not a problem (although they can transmit it to other cats). The last third will become ill at some point in time. If that is the case you may have to make a decision tha can be difficult if you don’t want him to suffer. It can take years for some cats to become ill.

An article that might be helpful to you is Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV).

If he feels good and you choose to adopt him, it sounds like is one lucky cat!


Dr. Debra

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