Monday, November 23, 2015

Feline Leukemia and Bengal Cats

Bengal cat (left) and domestic shorthair (right)
It has come to our attention, recently, that there are a number of breeders and websites that claim that the Bengal breed is immune to Feline Leukemia virus. Unfortunately, this is not the case. There are multiple reports across the nation of feline leukemia positive cats that are Bengals. This myth probably arose due to the origins of the Bengal breed.

The Bengal cat originated in part due to Dr. Willard Centerwall's research at Loyola University in the 1970's - breeding Asian Leopard cats to domestic cats in order to study the inheritance of Feline Leukemia. Asian Leopard Cats are considered to have some PARTIAL immunity to feline leukemia, but Feline Leukemia Virus has been detected in some Asian Leopard Cat cell lines. Unfortunately, when Dr. Centerwall passed away (in the 1980's, we believe), his research was not continued, so no studies have been done to determine how much, if any, partial immunity has been inherited by later generations. According to a European source, pet quality Bengal cats (4-5th generation removed or more from the Asian Leopard cat cross is considered to be a domestic cat and a "purebred Bengal") generally have in average only 12.5% "wild" blood in them (F4 generation = 6-14%, F5 generation 3-12%), , which argues that the likelihood that they have any partial immunity is very unlikely. Needless to say, the fact that there are Bengal cats out there that are testing positive for Feline Leukemia Virus is the strongest argument against the claim that they are immune.

Bengal kittens

All felines are at some degree of risk of developing feline leukemia if exposed to the disease - Florida panthers, lions, tigers, etc. Indoor cats are at very low risk of exposure, but any outdoor cat that is not 100% supervised while outside is potentially risking exposure. This is why we recommend that all cats be tested for Feline Leukemia after adoption (or after being found as a stray) and that cats with high risk lifestyles be regularly vaccinated for Feline Leukemia, regardless of their breed.

History of theBengal Cat

Recurrent Demyelination and Remyelination in 37 Young Bengal Cats with Polyneuropathy

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