How easy is it for my indoor cats to catch feline leukemia/other infectious diseases (see details below)?
I have two indoor cats (brothers, approx. 4 years old). Today I came home and saw both of them sitting next to the window screen, with an outdoor cat of unknown origin (on the other side of the screen, of course!). I have no idea how friendly these cats got, although they appeared to be sitting (more or less) contentedly, on their respective sides of the screen. The outdoor cat seems very friendly and not overly mangy, but I've shooed her/him away repeatedly and lowered the storm window because I'm scared of contagious diseases. The cats had their respiratory and rabies shots, but we've discontinued the leukemia shots last year because we decided it wasn't necessary/a good idea for indoor cats. Should I worry that they've been exposed to something contagious? Should I keep my indoor cats from contact with this other cat? Any help/advice would be greatly appreciated!!
- S. M.
You should keep your cats away from strange cats, but I think you're safe, since they were inside and that other cat was outside and they were separated by a screen. If you're really worried, call your vet and ask.
Thank you for taking care of your cats' healths!
Since the cat cannot get at your cats to scratch them or to bite them, the risk is really minimal. Maybe rethink your decision to discontinue that injection. Rather safe than sorry.
- Jaded Ruby
Those things are generally transmitted through saliva or scratches....or a sneeze or sharing food or water. Since even a sneeze going through the screen is pretty unlikely I would say the risk is pretty low. Just keep the door closed. It's not a good idea for this kind of socializng to occur because there is a risk potentially after multiple exposures. You could have a titer drawn in a few weeks....but i think that is way overboard. But if you "have to know" whether your cats were exposed go for it. I wouldn't waste the money at this point...I think you are safe....and I as a breeder, am PARANOID about infectious disease and my cats. Unless that cat they were sitting there with looked bloated and weepy eyed or there is sneezy junk all over the screen....just don't let them make a habit of it.
It's possible to pass FeLV through a screen, but not very likely - especially if the cats have had previous vaccinations. (Although the shots are not 'current' the cats still have some protection.) The 'stray' might belong to a neighbor, or be a 'neighborhood cat' that gets fed by several people but doesn't belong to anyone. Maybe he's applying to become your third cat...
FIV requires a deep bite in to a moving blood supply. Mange, ringworm and other skin conditions require body contact for the most part. Parasites require ingestion or at least stepping into infected poop from a cat who has the parasites. Fleas, of course, can hitch a ride in on your shoes or come through any screen with large enough holes to let them pass.
Leukemia can spread with sneezing, but actually it's not so easy to catch as once thought. As you know you can vaccinate against feline leukemia, that would protect them just in case, but before doing that ask your vet if they're aware of what diseases are found in your area. Even discontinuing the shots would still have the vaccine protect the cat for several years. It stays in the blood far longer than one year, even when not helped with a booster shot.
The area I live in has no FeLV problem, but 10 miles south of me there's a significant amount of ferals who have it.
If the cats were sitting quietly, there's not much liklihood of much passing between.
Leukemia — Comprehensive overview covers symptoms, causes, risk factors, treatment of this blood-related cancer.
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