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SNAP test for cats

A reader recently wrote in to ask what a feline SNAP test is. She had taken in a stray kitten and a friend had advised her to get take it to a vet for a cat SNAP test.

When cats and kittens are taken in by shelters and rescue groups, they routinely run tests on the felines to make sure they are healthy before they release them for adoption. Two of the primary tests are for FeLV (feline leukemia virus) and FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus).

To test for these two viral infections, blood is drawn from the cat and processed. The blood samples can be sent out to a lab for testing with results being reported anywhere from 24 to 48 hours. Alternately, many vets use a SNAP test to get immediate in-office results.

What is a SNAP test?

A SNAP test is a kit that gives results within ten minutes. The SNAP test is a rapid enzyme immunoassay (ELISA) that can use serum, plasma or anticoagulated whole blood.

For FeLV, the SNAP test detects the presence of the FeLV p27 antigen. If it is found, the results are positive and the cat is diagnosed as having a FeLV infection.

For FIV, a positive test result indicates that a cat has been circulating FIV antibody and therefore likely infected – although a positive result can also mean that the cat has been given the FIV vaccine.


FeLV is known as the “friendly cat disease” because it can be transmitted through prolonged casual contact, being spread via saliva by mutual grooming and sharing food dishes. Thus it is considered highly contagious.

It is also very common to see an infected momma cat transmit the virus to her kittens.

It can also be spread from one cat to another through fighting and biting.


FIV is known as the “fighting cat disease” because it is transmitted through fighting and biting. FIV is transmitted primarily through deep, penetrating bite wounds made by male unneutered cats, who roam and fight other unneutered males over territory and females.

Follow up

Our reader wanted to adopt a second kitten as a feline companion to the kitten she had rescued. We advised her to get her kitten tested for FeLV and FIV before she brought home another kitten. She wanted quick results and made an appointment with a vet who did use the SNAP test. We are happy to report that the test results were negative for both diseases.

If you are adopting a cat or kitten or have rescued a stray feline, we advise you to make sure it has been tested for FeLV and FIV or have it tested yourself.

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