JAVMA News logo

March 01, 2020

Feline foamy virus is everywhere

Published on February 12, 2020

Exposure to or infection with feline foamy virus is common in pumas and domestic cats in Colorado, Southern California, and Florida, according to two recent studies. Another recent study found frequent cross-species transmission of FFV between domestic cats and pumas.

The overall seroprevalence of antibodies against FFV was 78.6% across subpopulations of pumas from those three states, according to a study published April 19 in the online journal Viruses. The FFV seroprevalence was 64.0% among domestic cats at eight animal shelters in those same states, according to a study published Sept. 16 in the online Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery Open Reports.

Domestic cat (left) wild puma (right)


“Despite FFV having been associated with increased viral loads in retroviral co-infections and with histological changes in lung and kidney tissue, the virus is still poorly understood and not well documented in most countries, especially the United States,” said Sarah Kechejian, the first author on the prevalence studies and a fourth-year veterinary student at Colorado State University.

A third study from the research collaborators found that FFV variants from domestic cats and pumas were not distinguishable at the host level. Analyses supported frequent cross-species spillover from domestic cats to pumas during the last century as well as frequent puma-to-puma transmission in Colorado, according to the study published in January in the journal Virus Evolution.

“The high FFV seroprevalence in U.S. domestic and wild cats exposes how connected these individuals are to each other—and shows how vulnerable the populations are to infectious disease transmission,” Kechejian said. “The data also spark discussion on the potential risks associated with a poorly understood retrovirus almost reaching ubiquity in domestic and wild cats.”

The research collaborators are not pursuing further FFV prevalence studies at this time, Kechejian said, but owned cats could have a lower seroprevalence when compared with the study populations.

Among domestic cats admitted to shelters because of nonowner surrender or that were involved in trap-neuter-return programs, the FFV seroprevalence was 75.0% in Southern California, 52.4% in Colorado, and 41.9% in Florida. Among pumas, the FFV seroprevalence was 69.1% in Southern California, 77.3% in Colorado, and 83.5% in Florida.

Read the studies on FFV seroprevalence in domestic cats and FFV seroprevalence in pumas, and the study on cross-species transmission.