Felis ISSN 2398-2950


Contributor(s): John Munday




  • Papillomaviridae family.

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Clinical Effects



  • Cats are probably ubiquitously infected by papillomaviruses.
  • These papillomavirus infections are asymptomatic in the vast majority of cats.
  • Cats with contact with cattle may be infected by a bovine papillomavirus that can cause feline sarcoids.


  • After infection cats shed small amounts of virus over a long period of time with clinical signs only seen rarely.
  • Why some cats develop clinical signs is poorly understood.


  • Cats probably infected with Felis catus papillomavirus type-2 in the first few days of life from mother.
  • Methods of transmission of other feline papillomavirus types unknown, but probably similar.
  • Microtrauma allows virus to infect basal cell layer.
  • Most cases develop without known exposure to a cat with papillomas and the presence of papillomaviral disease in one cat in a household dosen't predispose others to disease.
  • The infection of cats with bovine papillomaviruses is a 'dead end' infection and these cats do not shed infectious particles.

Pathological effects

  • Felis catus papillomavirus-1 causes visible papillomas in or around the oral cavity Mouth: multiple oral papillomas :
    • These papillomas do not typically result in systemic disease.
    • Lesions probably spontaneously regress.
  • Felis catus papillomavirus-2 causes cutaneous viral plaques that can progress to Bowenoid in situ carcinomas that can progress to invasive squamous cell carcinomas:
    • Lesions can develop in pigmented or non-pigmented skin and may be most common around the face.
    • Some lesions may spontaneously regress, some remain static, and some may progress to invasive carcinoma.
  • A bovine papillomavirus type causes feline sarcoids Feline sarcoid:
    • A solitary infiltrative hard nodular mass typically on the nose or lips Feline sarcoid .
    • Sarcoids tend to be infiltrative and recurrence after surgical excision is common.
    • Spontaneous resolution has not been reported.

Other Host Effects

  • Immune deficiency may be important in the development of viral plaques and Bowenoid in situ carcinomas, although not all cats have identificable immunosuppression.
  • Feline papillomaviruses do not infect other species.


Control via animal

  • Prevention of exposure of cat to papillomaviruses is unlikely to be a feasible way to prevent disease.

Control via chemotherapies

  • Imiquimod cream has been suggested as a treatment for Bowenoid in situ carcinoma, although no controlled study has been performed.


  • Vaccines are not available.
  • Autogenous vaccines are unlikely to influence lesion resolution.

Other countermeasures

  • Cutaneous and oral papillomas are likely to spontaneously resolve.
  • Viral plaques and Bowenoid in situ carcinomas may spontaneously resolve although resolution will not occur after neoplastic transformation.
  • Feline sarcoids do not spontaneously resolve.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Munday J S, Fairley R A, Mills H et al (2015) Oral papillomas associated with Felis catus papillomavirus type 1 in 2 domestic cats. Vet Pathol 52 (6), 1187-1190 PubMed.
  • Munday J S (2014) Papillomaviruses in felids. Vet J 199 (3), 340-347 PubMed.
  • Munday J S, Dunowska M, Hills S F et al (2013) Genomic characterization of Felis catus papillomavirus-3: a novel papillomavirus detected in a feline Bowenoid in situ carcinoma. Vet Microbiol 165 (3-4), 319-325 PubMed.
  • Munday J S, French A F, Peters-Kennedy J et al (2011) Increased p16CDKN2A protein within feline cutaneous viral plaques, bowenoid in situ carcinomas, and a subset of invasive squamous cell carcinomas. Vet Pathol 48 (2), 460-465 PubMed.
  • Munday J S, Kiupel M (2010) Papillomavirus-assocaited cutaneous neoplasia in mammals. Vet Pathol 47 (2), 254-264 PubMed.
  • Gill V L, Bergman P J, Baer K E et al (2008) Use of imiquimod 5% cream (Aldara) in cats with multicentric squamous cell carcinoma in situ: 12 cases (2002-2005). Vet Comp Oncol (1), 55-64 PubMed.
  • Munday J S, Kiupel M, French A F et al (2007) Detection of papillomaviral sequences in feline Bowenoid in situ carcinoma using consensus primers. Vet Dermatol 18 (4), 241-245 PubMed.
  • Doorbar J (2005) The papillomavirus life cycle. J Clin Virol 32 (Suppl 1), S7-15 PubMed.