When to Euthanize a cat with Feline Leukemia

FeLV or feline leukemia virus is common in cats and is fairly easy to transmit from one cat to another. Feline leukemia usually occurs in older cats rather than kittens, and even though it should be taken seriously, it is not as deadly as other chronic diseases. But the question for most cat owners arises when the disease does get serious, what should they do? When is the right time to euthanize a cat with feline leukemia?

So in this article, we will go over the different stages of leukemia in cats, as well as the right time to euthanize your cat when, and if needed. Let’s dive in.

When to Euthanize a cat with Feline Leukemia

How long does your cat have to live if it has Feline Leukemia

The first question that pops into cat owners’ minds after finding out their cat has leukemia is how long will my cat live? Is the disease itself curable?

The short answer to this is that leukemia in felines is curable. Most cats can survive the attack, and manage to live healthy and fulfilling lives.

But other cats are not so lucky. According to research, around 80% of cats that are diagnosed with severe cases of feline leukemia die within 3 years.

There are medications that are prescribed to control the effects of leukemia on your cat, these also help to reduce the transmission of the virus to other cats around it.

If proper medications and precautions are taken throughout the course, then there is a great chance that you and your cat will combat this disease together.

But if your cat is heavily affected but is not showing any signs of healing, then should you euthanize it?

It is a valid question, but euthanasia requires a lot of careful thinking and consideration. You need to make sure that your cat actually needs euthanasia.

How do you do that?

How to know when you should euthanize your cat with FeLV

It is vital that you are well versed with your cats’ situation so you can assess when it is the right time to euthanize it.

Your cat may go through some or all of these signs, and depending on their severity, you will have to decide whether to euthanize it or not.

Cat not healing even with medication

The first sign that your cat is unable to fight leukemia is if the medications given by the vet are not working.

Usually, the vet does not give any strong medications with any notable side effects for the feline leukemia virus besides antibiotics.

So if these antibiotics are not strengthening the immune system of your feline friend, then leukemia can get the better of your cat.

If this is the case, you need to discuss this situation with your vet. You may be asked to switch medications and observe for a result.

When nothing else works, euthanizing your cat will be the best option for it.

Leukemia symptoms getting worse

Sometimes, cats tested positive for leukemia virus get better with time, but the symptoms can start showing again, this time worse.

This is an indication that the antibiotic course has to be started so the cat can heal.

Oftentimes, because the symptoms got worse, it will now take more time for them to heal from which unfortunately most cats won’t recover.

So if your cat has been through this scenario, you can euthanize it to save it from any pain.

Cat has other diseases

Adult cats or older cats can be victims of other diseases as well. Diseases like chronic kidney failure, hyperthyroidism, and diabetes are not uncommon in older cats.

So naturally, the immunity of the cat is affected and if it is attacked with another disease, the body may not be able to fight it off that well.

Therefore, if your cat is inflicted with other non-curable problems, do it a favor and spare it the pain of constant treatment by euthanizing it.

Cat too old to bear the pain

Similar to the point above, older cats have weak immunity as is. They are weak and cannot survive 2 or 3 diseases at a time, let alone a strong one.

Generally, if the medicines are mild, older cats may be able to survive, but with an increasing effect of medications for more than one disease at a time, things are not always good.

Hence, if you have an older cat that you believe may not be able to survive having multiple diseases, then it is best to euthanize it.

Signs that your cat does not need to be euthanized yet

Feline Leukemia if handled right can save a cat’s life. Many cats can survive and live life to their full potential, so euthanizing them may not be necessary in many cases.

It is up to you to look into what your cat’s situation is and how you should go about it. Here are some signs that you should look for if you are leaning towards avoiding euthanasia.

Medications are working

Contrary to the subhead in the above paragraphs, if you are prescribed medicines for your feline for the leukemia virus, and they are working, then that is a big positive sign.

It is only worrisome if the medications are not working, but also if the symptoms are getting worse,

So if this is not happening with your cat, then you can live a happy life with your feline friend (after completing the course of medication of course!) and not worry about euthanasia.

Cat testing negative for FeLV

After you have double-checked with your vet that the medications are working and your cat is looking like it is back to normal, you should still get it tested.

If the test for feline leukemia comes back positive, your cat may need further medication and care, but if negative, then your cat is good to go!

Cat behaving and feeling normal

Last but not the least, yes, you need to make sure your cat is feeling normal to conclude that it is free from the leukemia virus.

This needs to be said because sometimes, test results can be a bit inaccurate.

Also because if it is not acting normal, you may need to get regular check-ups to the vet to ensure everything else is fine internally.

Caring for a cat with feline leukemia if you don’t want to euthanize it

If you decide not to euthanize your cat with feline leukemia, there are still some things you can do to keep it healthy and thriving.

Make sure you feed your cat a healthy and filling diet that will boost its immunity. Good nutrition is key to a healthy immune system, no matter the age of the cat.

Try to keep the cat calm, it should not get stressed out or face anxiety too much, as this can cause an adverse effect on its health.

Vets suggest also that cats tested for feline leukemia should be kept separate from the cats in your house that have tested negative.

Leukemia in cats transfers through fluids, which can be present in contact points like water/food bowls etc. so until the cats with the virus are healed, keep them separate.

Moreover, you should keep having regular check-ups with the vet. This is very important because you must always be up to date with your cat’s health.


In conclusion, when should you euthanize your cat with feline leukemia?

The answer is simple, you look into its current health conditions and decide whether you want to euthanize it or not.

If you see that the medications are working, your cat is feeling much better, and it finally tests negative for the virus, then you need not euthanize it.

However, if you’ve switched the medicines and they are still not working on your cat, then your cat may feel pain, for which you can choose to euthanize it.

Other reasons for euthanizing your cat can include, old age in the cat, being unable to bear the pain, or already having other diseases that are causing harm to its health.

But if you take proper care of your cat and do what the vet says, your cat may be able to survive and even fulfill or exceed its life expectancy.

So the bottom line is, listen to the vet, take regular checkups, and give it medicine on time for quicker healing.

The decision for euthanization for cats with ibd, lymphoma, leukemia, brain tumor, bladder cancer, kidney failure, liver failure, hyperthyroidism, fip or diabetes can be difficult. Multiple expert opinions can actually be best for your cat.

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