Cats are family. As a cat parent, you want to keep them healthy and stay current on common feline diseases that could affect their well-being. Feline Panleukopenia, or Feline Distemper commonly called, is a contagious viral disease common to cats. Although cats of all ages may get this virus, kittens are more susceptible. Sadly, the mortality rate in kittens with this feline panleukopenia is ninety percent. 

This article will help you learn about the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for feline distemper to arm yourself with the knowledge to protect your feline friends.

Table of Contents

  • What is Feline Panleukopenia?
  • Which Cats Are Susceptible to Feline Panleukopenia?
  • Symptoms of Feline Panleukopenia
  • Causes of Feline Panleukopenia
  • Diagnosing Feline Panleukopenia
  • Treatment Options for Feline Panleukopenia
  • Can Pet Insurance Provide Coverage for Such an Investment?
    • Illness & Injury Plan
    • Accident Only Plan
    • Wellness Plan
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Feline Panleukopenia

What is Distemper (Feline Panleukopenia)?

FPV in cats can be extremely dangerous and is similar to parvovirus  in dogs.

Feline Panleukopenia (FPV) is a deadly virus in the parvovirus family. It’s similar to a virus that causes parvovirus in dogs. FPV is extremely contagious since it gets shed through excretion and secretions in the early stages of the illness and for as long as six weeks after a feline’s recovery. It’s spread through an infected cat’s urine, feces, nasal discharge, saliva, or blood. Currently, there is no cure for this virus, but it’s preventable with a vaccination. Free-roaming felines are usually exposed to this virus in the first year of their life. If they survive, their immune system can protect them from future infections. 

FPV suppresses a feline’s production of white blood cells in the bone marrow, affecting your cat’s immune system’s strength to fight off infection, so they’re vulnerable to spreading FPV. Once your cat is infected, they will show signs of the disease, including:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dehydration
  • Secondary bacterial infections

Feline Panleukopenia lives anywhere in the environment. It can live for years under the right conditions. It’s carried on shoes, clothing, paws, food bowls, or bedding. In animal shelters, staff members can carry the virus on their hands. Cats can also get infected in utero if their mother is infected while pregnant or when they’re exposed to the virus in the environment. Their mother’s breast milk may infect kittens. Cats with FPV shed the virus through their urine, saliva, vomit, or blood. If your cat comes in contact with these secretions, they will be infected. Because the virus is so resistant and even able to survive in freezing temperatures, cats often get infected in their environment. 

FPV can be destroyed with 2% bleach. All contaminated surfaces should be disinfected and cleaned to protect your home or cat’s area from the virus. Cats of any age can get distemper, but kittens with a poor immune system or unvaccinated are most susceptible. 

Which Cats Are Susceptible to Distemper (Feline Panleukopenia)?

Cats of any age can get FPV, but kittens with poor immune systems are most susceptible to the virus. This virus is extremely resistant to chemical cleaning substances, staying infectious in an environment for months to years. Young, unvaccinated, immunocompromised, and cats living in groups such as shelters are most at risk for FPV. 

Symptoms of Distemper (Feline Panleukopenia)

Being aware of the common FPV symptoms exhibited by infected cats is critical. If you recognize these symptoms in your feline, seek immediate veterinary care for your pet. The symptoms of FPV can be mild to severe and may include:

  • Depression
  • Tiredness
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach sensitivity to touch, bloated
  • Weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Fever
  • Coat looks unkept
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bruising of the cat’s gums or skin

Kittens infected with FPV during pregnancy may be naturally aborted. If the kitten is infected in the later stages of pregnancy, they may be born with deformities that cause tremors or lack of balance and coordination. These aren’t painful conditions for the cat; they can live long lives despite their disabilities. 

Causes of Distemper (Feline Panleukopenia)

Breastfed kittens get the virus from an infected mother. The virus attacks the cat’s immune system through its bone marrow and intestines anywhere from two to seven days after they’ve come in contact with the virus. Cats with FPV shed the virus through secretions. Any cat or kitten that comes in contact with these secretions can get the virus and continue spreading it in the environment or to other cats. 

Young unvaccinated kittens are most susceptible to FPV, as well as immunocompromised, unvaccinated, and pregnant cats. Young cats’ immune systems aren’t fully developed, making them vulnerable to getting the virus and requiring hospitalization.

It’s best to keep unvaccinated cats away from areas where an infected cat has been, even if it’s been cleaned and disinfected. Vaccinations are the best prevention for FPV, but they’re not 100% effective. Vaccinated cats can get the virus, but usually, vaccinated cats experience milder symptoms and recover better than unvaccinated cats because, due to the vaccination, their body has produced antibodies against the virus, limiting the virus’ impact. Regular booster vaccinations are the best way to maintain your cat’s immunity to the virus. 

Diagnosing Distemper (Feline Panleukopenia)

Lethargy, fever and dehydration are just some signs your cat may have Feline Panleukopeia (FPV).


Because Feline Panleukopenia has similar symptoms to other feline conditions, such as immunodeficiency virus and leukemia, any cat that shows signs of the virus should be checked by a vet. The vet will study your cat’s medical history to see if they’re newly adopted, run outdoors, unvaccinated, or around other cats. 

They will perform a physical exam. They look for clinical signs such as:

  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Dehydration
  • Thickening of intestines
  • Enlarged lymph nodes

The vet will also do several tests, including

  • Bloodwork – The vet will look for low white blood cells and sometimes anemia. They’ll look for changes in the blood proteins and electrolytes. 
  • Fecal tests – Checking the cat’s feces for the virus. 
  • Antibody test – Antibody tests look for antibodies in the cat’s blood. Certain proteins in their immune system help fight infection. The test confirms an FPV diagnosis. 
  • PCR tests – A polymerase chain reaction is a test that looks for any genetic material of the virus in the cat’s blood.

Treatment Options for Distemper (Feline Panleukopenia)

Feline Panleukopenia is a fast-spreading fatal virus. It invades the cells of the cat’s digestive system, bone marrow (that makes blood cells), lymph tissue(cells of the immune system), and nervous system. Take your pet to the veterinarian immediately at the first symptoms of infection. Even if your cat has a strong immune system, FPV is hard to fight without proper treatment. Cats that don’t receive treatment rarely survive the onset of the disease. 

The best treatment involves finding ways to boost the cat’s immune system until it starts to fight off the virus. Which usually involves hospitalization and treatments such as

  • Fluid therapy to correct and prevent dehydration
  • B-vitamin infusions to help avoid hypoglycemia. 
  • Plasma for clotting in severely ill kittens
  • Antiviral medications – These meds can help shorten the virus
  • Provide good nutrient support to strengthen the cat
  • Antibiotics – These won’t kill the virus but help fight off any secondary bacterial infections 
  • Blood infusion if the cat is severely anemic

If a cat lives at least five days with the virus, its chances of recovery are good. The vet will recommend isolation from other cats or animals to prevent the spread of the virus. 

Because cats can continue to shed the virus even after recovery, they shouldn’t have contact with cats for up to six weeks. Cats that survive FPV are immune to the disease for their entire life. 

Cleaning your home

Once your cat recovers, clean your home to remove the virus and prevent it from returning. 

  • Clothing – Soak your clothes or any clothes the cat may have touched in ACCEL (Accelerated Hydrogen Peroxide). It can disinfect clothing in five minutes. After soaking, wash your clothes as you would normally.
  • Bedding – Throw away bedding if your cat soils it. Other bedding can be soaked in bleach for 15 minutes and then washed in hot water in your washing machine.
  • Carpeting – Spray ACCEL on your carpet, then scrub with a brush. Remove the solution with a carpet cleaning extractor using hot water. 
  • Cat crate – Power wash and scrub with ACCEL solution. Be sure to clean all surfaces of the crate inside and out. Use hot water to move the solution to avoid damaging the crate. 
  • Cat tree – It may be best to get rid of the cat tree since it’s carpet. But if you want to keep it, follow the carpet cleaning instructions. 
  • Upholstered furniture-Steam clean your upholstered furniture using ACCEL solution and hot water. 
  • Walls – It is best to repaint walls and baseboards to guarantee the virus is completely gone from inside your home. 

Can Pet Insurance Provide Coverage for Such an Investment?

Pet health insurance can help reimburse for medical treatments when your cat gets sick.


As a cat parent, it’s frightening to watch your pet suffer. Feline Panleukopenia virus is a deadly disease that requires hospitalization and medical treatments for your cat to survive. Such treatments are costly, especially if you haven’t invested in pet insurance. 

Hospitalization or intensive care for your cat can run as much as $800 to $1500. 

Outpatient support care can run as much as $400 to $800 depending on how severe the virus is for your cat and your cat’s size. Pet insurance allows you to give your sweet pet the care they need when sick. 

Illness & Injury Plan

This plan is the most extensive of our plans. It offers you choices of the type of coverage for want for your pet’s needs. This plan covers your pet’s emergency vet visits, overnight hospital stays, surgeries, CAT and MRI scans, and more. It’s the best comprehensive plan you’ll want to purchase to ensure your pet gets the best care in light of an illness. This affordable plan costs, on average $25 a month for cats. 

Accident-Only Plan

This plan provides coverage for emergency vet care due to accidents. It’s the perfect plan for tight budgets, first-time pet parents, and pets with pre-existing health conditions. The Accident Only Plan costs as little as twenty-five cents a day. It’s worth the peace of mind you’ll have to know your pet is covered in case of an accident. 

Wellness Plan

Odie’s Wellness Plan covers routine care for your pet. This plan helps to offset the cost of vaccinations, flea and tick meds, and fecal exams. Depending on your pet’s needs, you can choose the basic or the plus plan. 


How Long Does Panleukopenia Last in Cats? 

Once your cat recovers from FPV, it can’t infect another cat by direct contact, but they shed the virus in their urine or feces for up to six weeks. 

Is Distemper the Same as feline panleukopenia and parvo?

Feline distemper is also called feline parvo. 

What Temperature Kills Panleukopenia?

No one seems to know at what temperature the parvovirus is killed. Some suggest the virus can be rendered inactive at 212° F. 

How Long Does Panleukopenia Last in the Environment?

The virus can live up to a year in the environment. FPV grows best in dark, moist areas. 

Cat Parvo Survival Rate?


For kittens who are less than two months old, the survival rate is 5%. 

Kittens over two months of age have a 30% to 40% chance of survival with treatment but very little chance of surviving without treatment.

Adult cats

Adult cats have an 80 to 90% chance of surviving if treated but only an 85% chance if not treated. 

Can Cats Give Dogs Distemper?

Cats cannot give a dog a feline distemper. Even though the names sound similar, canine distemper is a different virus. If your cat has feline distemper or FPV, your dog isn’t at risk if exposed to them. Dogs can get canine distemper from another infected dog. 

How Long Does Distemper Stay in Your House?

Feline Panleukopenia can stay active in your home for months, even years. It thrives in moist, dark areas. 

How to Prevent Parvo in Cats?

The best way to prevent FPV is to have your cat vaccinated. Kittens are required to get booster vaccinations at six to eight weeks. These are continually given to a kitten until they reach 20 weeks. Distemper boosters are given to cats every three years. Because the virus is everywhere in the environment, even if your cat is indoors, they should be vaccinated.

How Is Feline Panleukopenia Transmitted?

Infected cats shed the FPV through urine, nasal secretions, and stools. When a cat comes in contact with the secretions, they get the virus. Even fleas from an infected cat can give a healthy cat the virus. The virus can live up to a year in the environment, so your cat can become infected without ever being in direct contact with an infected cat. Areas such as bedding, food bowls, clothing, shoes, or hands can spread the infection.