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Three years ago, I saved a cat and her six kittens from basically a crack den. A few months later, one kitten very suddenly got ill and died. Her sister got ill afterwards, but that vet found FeLV and treated what symptoms she could. That kitten got another 14 months of good life.

When it all happened, I was told in no uncertain terms by those I helped save the cats that no, the mother was not the source, or they would all be dead or infected. Two years later, I noticed the mother (whom I kept) had unequal pupil sizes that differed a lot. The vet (not the same who saved the kitten) said she was completely fine, but due to her history and, yes, looking it up online (the pupil thing is one symptom of FeLV), I requested a FeLV test, though the vet felt it was unnecessary. She, of course, was wrong.

Long story short, the mother has FeLV. She has no real symptoms and is as lively as any other cat, and has been for the three year she has been here, plus however long she was at the crack den. Somehow, she is an immune 'sufferer' of the disease.

I was wondering if she could be beneficial to research into a cure or treatment for FeLV? She has no contact with non-vaccinated cats and is actually vaccinated after the kittens died, but if she could pass the ability of living just fine with the disease on to others, it could save a lot of lives. I just don't know how or if she can be of help.

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  • Because you write "she has no contact to unvaccinated cats" I assume, you are aware the risk of your cat be a carrier for this illness? Your question is a very interesting one! You could try to find some researcher on this field and ask them directly. Apr 17 at 12:17
  • She is a carrier. That killed the two kittens, along with four other cats. She is NOT in contact with any cats that are not rigorously vaccinated, which has prevented any further deaths. And yes, I hope her condition canhelp others, maybe as a compensation for the lives the disease cost before we got everyone vaccinated :( Apr 17 at 16:52
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It seems known that infected cats could respond in different ways, like this (old) scientific paper states:

Clinical and immunologic aspects of FeLV-induced immunosuppression

G K Ogilvie et al. Vet Microbiol. 1988 Jul.

Cats exposed to the feline leukemia virus (FeLV) may mount an effective immune response and eliminate the virus, develop a non-viremic, latent infection or become persistently infected and shed the virus. Persistently infected cats commonly die of secondary opportunistic infections that result from FeLV-induced immunosuppression. The acquired immunosuppression is the most frequent and most devastating consequence of FeLV infection in the cat.

So it seems that your cat may not be a very special one.

But your thought is worthy, and maybe some researcher near you would be happy to take some blood or cell sample of your cat, to build a data base. You could have a look, or ask the vet for information about researchers active in the field of FeLV (connected not only with cats, but also with AIDS research and cancer treatment in humans) to ask directly if your cat could provide any help. Most researchers are simple humans, and the worst case could be to get no answer.

Maybe there already exists some cooperation between researchers and some animal clinic (maybe university ones?) and you could ask the clinic if they have a need of FeLV positive but symptom-free cats.

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    I sadly live way out in the countryside, so options to reach out locally are nill. I should ask my vet, though. And she may only be special to me, but as you said, no harm in asking :) Apr 19 at 9:29
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    The most researchers I know would have an E-Mail adress provided at some kind of research-profile-website from their company or by themself ;) So you could ask, before planning other steps. Apr 19 at 10:09
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Your intention is very noble, but it seems to be unnecessary.

According to this study Outcome of FeLV-infected cats in a large pet adoption program

Rates of feline infection with feline leukemia (FeLV) in the U.S. are estimated at around 3 percent, including approximately 60,000 shelter cats. Such cats are frequently euthanized following a single positive test for the virus even if they show no signs of illness.

If scientists were actively searching for cats with a resistance to FeLV, they would probably be able to find enough of them in shelters.

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  • That hurts to even read. But it puts it in perspective, thank you. May 20 at 17:15

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