Have you met Sparta? He’s the Sparta-cat of “Mean Kitty” fame. And whatever you may think of the aggressive-play, owner-cat relationship behind this Internet sensation, it’s clear Sparta is well-loved...

...and now he’s been diagnosed FeLV-positive, too. 

This post is dedicated to Sparta and his owners, who are doubtless experiencing the swirl of emotions this diagnosis confers. 

The news has also been tough on his fans. After all, most cat lovers have preconceived notions on the subject of the feline leukemia virus:

We test our kittens when they arrive, waiting with bated breath as our veterinarian runs the routine, in-house test for FeLV and FIV. We breathe a sigh of relief when the verdict is rendered. And we grieve when the diagnosis is delivered. 

Yet those of us in the latter, unenviable position who have chosen the path of life for our adored cats have often had occasion to espouse on the theme of living well with feline leukemia. 

Feline leukemia can be devastating...but it’s not always. Many of my patients live normal feline lifespans despite the clutches of FeLV. And many more may live undiagnosed, feral lives...without symptoms of this virus’s immunological tyranny.

Indeed, the feline leukemia virus is by no means a death sentence for all. Sure, if your kitty’s sick and tests positive, too, we might express serious reservations about your cat’s long-term comfort. But if a routine screen screams in hues of blue, an increasing percentage of veterinarians will now urge you to consider the possibility of a full and happy life.

Here’s the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) emphatic statement on this:

“Retrovirus-positive cats may live many years without related illness. A decision about euthanasia should not be made based on a positive test alone.”

Truth is, the more we know about feline leukemia the less it seems we know. But we do know one thing: FeLV is survivable in many cases. An unpredictable blip in its interaction with the feline immune system can mean a lifetime of freedom from symptoms...while another means chronic illness...and yet another leads to cancers. 

And, further, it appears that nothing a veterinarian can do will affect this outcome--not in the long-run, anyway. It’s all up to the vagaries of their mysterious feline immunology. 

So here’s a shout-out to Sparta, whose legions of admirers have rushed to his virtual bedside to chat him up and check on his progress. We hope your family makes the choice that’s best for you and for everyone in your household. We know it’s a tough road, but we also know they’ll consider all your options for a happy, healthy life with FeLV.