Challenge of naive experimental animals with a retroviral inoculum may result in one of two broad sequelae. The first is the establishment of an appropriate humoral and cellular immune response leading to a condition of immunity to subsequent infection with the retrovirus. Alternatively, the host may fail to develop a successful immune response, resulting in a chronic viremia associated with immunosuppression and ultimately death due to secondary pathogens. An alternate disease course is the establishment of a latent infection characterized by the presence of neutralizing antibody and strong cellular immune reactivity. Recent data from the feline leukemia virus (FeLV) system suggest that cats infected with this virus may develop immunosuppression in the form of persistent neutrophil dysfunction. The potential effect of this cellular dysfunction is the possible susceptibility of the host to the same opportunistic pathogens which are responsible for the increased mortality noted in chronic FeLV infections. These data demonstrate that persistent retroviremia is not essential for the establishment of immunosuppression. This overview presents data accumulated from the feline model of the human acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and discusses its relationship to human retroviral infections.