The retrovirus status of cats informs both wellness and illness care. The panel recommends testing all cats for feline leukemia
virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) infections when they are adopted, regardless of age. Retrovirus testing
can be performed even on kittens a few days old. Cats with negative test results should be retested a minimum of 30 days later
for FeLV and at least 60 days later for FIV. Antibody tests for FIV can detect antibodies passed in colostrum from an infected
or vaccinated mother, which can be mistaken for infection in the kitten. Kittens with positive results for FIV antibodies
should be retested every 60 days up to 6 months of age because FIV tests can detect antibodies passed from an infected or
a vaccinated queen and give a false positive result; if a kitten becomes seronegative, it most likely was not infected. Retrovirus
tests can diagnose only infection, not clinical disease, and cats with FeLV or FIV infections may live for many years.
Cats should be retested after exposure to an infected cat or a cat of unknown infection status before vaccination against
FeLV or FIV and before entering group housing with cats of unknown retrovirus status. Cats living in households with other
cats infected with FeLV or FIV should be tested annually unless they are isolated. Sick cats should be tested even if they
have had negative test results in the past.14
The panel recommends that panleukopenia virus, herpesvirus-1, calicivirus, and rabies virus vaccines be given to all cats.
Administer panleukopenia virus, herpesvirus-1, and calicivirus vaccines to kittens beginning as early as 6 weeks of age every
three to four weeks until they are at least 16 weeks of age. Revaccinate one year later and then every three years. Give rabies
virus vaccinations in accordance with local or state statutes.
The FeLV vaccine is highly recommended for all kittens because of unknown future lifestyle and for cats that go outdoors,
have direct contact with cats of unknown status or that live in high turnover situations such as foster homes or other group
housing, and cats that live with cats infected with FeLV. These cats should be revaccinated annually.15
Education about oral healthcare is crucial at all life stages to increase awareness that cats need both home and veterinary
dental care, especially since many owners do not know how common dental disease is in cats, how painful it can be, and how
it threatens their cats' health and welfare.
Emphasize the value of tooth brushing in cats, particularly to owners of kittens since cats are most receptive at this age.
For clients with older cats, show how they can encourage tooth brushing with positive interactions and rewards.
In addition to tooth brushing, a variety of dental products for homecare are available, including diets, treats, and chews.
Efficacy of products is not equivalent, and the only dental products known to be effective are those approved by the Veterinary
Oral Health Council, which requires extensive standards to be met before certification.
COMMUNICATION AND RESOURCES
Excellent resources are available to facilitate the design of a comprehensive, life-stage-targeted wellness care plan for
each cat. Veterinarians, staff, and pet owners must communicate clearly to promote adherence to wellness plans and improve
the quality of feline healthcare.16 The AAFP-AAHA Feline Life Stage Guidelines may be used as a concise template for this purpose.
C.A. Tony Buffington, DVM, PhD, DACVN
Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences
College of Veterinary Medicine
The Ohio State University
Columbus, OH 43210