Feline Virus Temporarily Halts Cat Admissions At the Cleveland APL

Jason Cook

October 7, 2008

The Cleveland Animal Protective League has recently experienced several cases of feline panleukopenia, a highly contagious and often fatal virus that is sometimes called feline parvovirus. Panleukopenia has a sudden and deadly onset and can wipe out a population of unvaccinated or partially vaccinated kittens and cats in a short amount of time. Unfortunately, many cats that come into the Cleveland APL have not been previously vaccinated and are therefore at a higher risk of contracting and spreading the disease to other shelter cats that are in the process of becoming fully vaccinated at the APL.

According to studies, panleukopenia has a fifty to ninety percent fatality rate in susceptible cats/kittens. It can manifest as a neurological or intestinal disease. Signs and symptoms include lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea. Cleveland APL Executive Director Sharon Harvey explains, “Shelter animals are especially at-risk for disease because they arrive unvaccinated and are housed in an ever-changing environment that increases their stress and reduces their immunity to illness. The risk exists at every shelter that provides temporary housing and care to stray cats.”

As a precautionary measure for the welfare of both incoming and resident cats, the Cleveland APL is temporarily suspending all cat admissions until October 18th. Cats currently at the APL that are under four months of age or that have not completed their vaccination protocol will be held and observed in quarantine for a two-week period. Quarantined cats will be available for adoption in two weeks as long as they don’t become infected with the virus. Cats that are four months old and up and that have been fully vaccinated will continue to be available for adoption, as will dogs and small mammals.

People wishing to surrender a cat to the Cleveland APL should:
• Contact the APL’s Admissions department at 216-771-4616, ext. 141, to schedule an appointment to bring your cat in after the quarantine has been lifted on October 17th;
• Even after the quarantine has been lifted, in order to help the APL manage its cat population and keep the cats in its care healthy, please continue to schedule appointments to surrender a cat;
• Prior to surrendering a cat to a shelter, have a veterinarian administer the necessary vaccinations to protect the cat from panleukopenia and other contagious viruses.

According to Harvey, “Our priority right now must be to protect the well-being of the cats we already have in our care and avoid exposing susceptible incoming cats to a potentially life-threatening virus. We take the trust our community places in us to be stewards for the homeless animals in our care very much to heart. By taking these steps, ultimately, we are saving lives. We ask our community to be understanding and to hold on to their cats and kittens until we can re-open. We also hope the community will continue to be willing to work with us in the future to better manage our admissions process for animals so that we can ultimately help more.”