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By on Hit 'Em With Your Best Shot: Taking Great Photos of Shelter Animals, Part 4 - 9/26/2016 at 5:29am

The "Empty cages" photo is KC Pet Project, in October 2013, after the Mega Match-A-Thon!

Great ideas. Thanks! Keep them coming!

Tip of the Week: Testing for FeLV/FIV? Don’t Take Your Pick of the Litter

Testing for feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) infections is performed on a regular basis in many animal shelters. This testing is helpful in determining a cat’s health status, which impacts his or her medical needs as well as the ideal type of home – but only if it’s done right. The most common screening tests can be performed quickly and easily in the shelter using a blood sample, and many commercially available kits will detect both infections with a single test.

Kittens in the same litter may have different test results for a number of reasons, so don’t assume that the results of one kitten are representative of those for the entire litter. In some cases, one or two kittens will test positive for FeLV while the others test negative, but there is no way to know an individual kitten’s status without testing individually.

It is also important that only a single kitten’s blood sample be tested at one time; “pooled” samples should not be used as this can also give inaccurate results. For example, if samples are combined from three kittens, but only one kitten has FeLV viral particles circulating in his bloodstream, the result may still be negative. This happens because combining multiple samples dilutes each one, increasing the risk that the test won’t be able to pick up the low amounts of virus present.

What are the protocols for FIV/FeLV testing of kittens at your agency? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box.

Photo: Stephanie Janeczko, DVM, MS, Dipl. ABVP (Canine/Feline)

Related links:
Recommended Feline Shelter Vaccines
“Tip of the Week: Chip Chip Hooray”
Webinar Series: ASV Shelter Guidelines



We are limited with funding. We test the most likely candidates. These are the mother, the most aggressive ones and the weakest ones -- likely with the weakest immune system. When these prove negative, then we assume the rest are, too. We must, we have limited funding, and let adopters know if the kitten they adopt has not been tested. If one proves positive, then the rest are tested. One month later, all are tested again. We had a case where 6 kittens were pulled from a shelter with their mother at 1 day old, along with a orphan that was 3 days old. All were raised together and nursed from the same mother cat. At spay/neuter time (when the kittens were 10 weeks old) the mother, the most aggressive kitten, the weakest kitten, and the orphan were tested. The orphan tested positive for FeLV. All others tested negative. The orphan was separated from the family and placed into an excellent foster home. All of the other kittens were tested and showed negative. 5 weeks later, all kittens and the mother were retested. Only the orphan showed positive results. One month later, the orphan, mother, and one other kitten were retested and only the orphan showed positive. By then, we had spent hundreds on testing, and decided we had done enough. The rest was up to the adopters, if they wanted to continue to test. The orphan continues to do well in his home. The foster adopted him before his first birthday and he is almost 3 years old, now.


We also only test a selection of kittens, usually half of a litter. FeLV/FIV tests are extremely expensive and each test costs us $25 to perform. We do require people surrendering to pay for the tests but they can't alway afford it or they've left a litter of 10 kittens on our doorstep. A litter of 10 would cost us almost $300 to test and would use half a box of tests.


We have a shelter agreement with Idexx, and a box of 30 combo Leuk/FIV cost 389.00. This is about $13.00 per test. I was trained by a Vet to do all of our in house testing. We also ordered the cat bags fom Campbell's catalog to help with the testing. The ball that snaps around their heads is something else I want to help with hard to handle cats. I use the diabetic needs that longer. This saves us money. Ferals I do have the vet do.


All cats are FeLV and FIV tested when they come in during the intake process (and re-tested if they are returned). By using a lab it is affordable ($12/test). If we receive a FeLV positive we send an IFA test and will retest at 30 days as part of our protocol.

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