A Toledo cat shelter is temporarily closed to the public after an outbreak of a highly contagious feline virus.
Paws and Whiskers Cat Shelter closed Monday after a kitten was diagnosed with panleukopenia, commonly called feline distemper. The shelter will not adopt or accept cats until at least noon June 23.
“To be safe and make sure we’re not adopting out any sick animals, we decided to close and do a thorough cleaning and keep an eye on the ones there,” said David Plunkett, shelter manager.
The virus is the equivalent of canine parvovirus. It typically presents with symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea and can be fatal. A cat can shed the virus before showing any symptoms.
Dr. Bob Esplin of SylvaniaVET, where the shelter’s kitten was treated, said the virus causes white blood cell counts to plummet and is most common in kittens who haven’t been vaccinated.
“It’s a very hardy virus,” he said. “It could easily be that people moving in and out of that area could carry it on their hands, clothing, or shoes and bring [it] into the rest of the shelter.”
Other than supportive care, treatment options are limited, Dr. Esplin said.
Kim Ferguson, kennel supervisor, said Sherman was one of a litter of 12-week-old strays who came to the shelter early this month. He and 23 other kittens were being held in the shelter’s sick room to treat ringworm. Sherman is the only one to have been diagnosed with the virus, but the other 23 all have diarrhea.
So far, none of the other cats in the main adoption area have shown any symptoms.
Mr. Plunkett said the shelter had an outbreak of panleukopenia about nine years ago.
Dr. Esplin said an outbreak could happen at any shelter. Paws and Whiskers’ situation is an isolated incident and temporarily closing was important to prevent any further spread.
“They are absolutely doing the right thing,” he said. “They’ve been extremely responsible in the way they've handled this.”
Mr. Plunkett said the shelter is in need of non-clumping cat litter, paper towels, cleaning supplies, and disposable medical gear such as paper gowns, face masks, gloves, and booties. To donate items or volunteer, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 419-536-1914.
The shelter also will need help paying for veterinary bills as a result of the outbreak. Donations can be made online at pawsandwhiskers.org, or by mailing a check to the shelter at 32 Hillwyck Dr., Toledo, 43615.