60 cats and kittens euthanized at Sullivan shelter in single day

J. H. Osborne • Updated Sep 25, 2018 at 8:49 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — The Sullvan County Animal Shelter euthanized 60 cats and kittens last week due to feline panleukopenia, county officials said Monday.

That bad news unfolded as the shelter was battling a separate issue in the cat room: a flea infestation among some kittens. The shelter had announced the cat room would be closed Wednesday, September 19, for deep cleaning due to the flea situation. While preparation was underway for that clean up, shelter workers were notified a kitten adopted from the shelter had been taken to local veterinarian by its new owners and had been diagnosed with feline panleukopenia, county officials said.

That led to an evaluation of all the cats and kittens at the shelter for signs of the disease - and 60 were euthanized as a result. None of the euthanizations, performed by a animal control officer with the required training and certification to do so, were because of fleas.

A local rescue group had picked out 29 cats or kittens to take from the shelter prior to the cat room’s closure, county officials said, but that group hadn’t yet submitted paperwork or payment. Three of the 60 euthanized animals were from that list of 29 the rescue group wanted, the officials said.

Cats and kittens are vaccinated against feline panleukopenia when they enter the shelter, the officials said, but that doesn’t cure an already infected animal and the vaccination doesn’t immediately close the window on exposure.

The following information is from the American Veterinary Medical Association:

What is feline panleukopenia?

• “Feline panleukopenia (FP) is a highly contagious viral disease of cats caused by the feline parvovirus. Kittens are most severely affected by the virus. The names feline distemper and feline parvo should not be confused with canine distemper or canine parvo— although their names are similar, they are caused by different viruses. The viruses do not infect people.”

• “The feline parvovirus infects and kills cells that are rapidly growing and dividing, such as those in the bone marrow, intestines, and the developing fetus.”

• “In the past, feline panleukopenia (FP) was a leading cause of death in cats. Today, it is an uncommon disease, due in large part to the availability and use of very effective vaccines. The disease is also called feline distemper or feline parvo.”

How does it spread?

“Cats can shed the virus in their urine, stool and nasal secretions; infection occurs when susceptible cats come in contact with these secretions, or even the fleas from infected cats. An infected cat tends to shed the virus for a relatively short period of time (1-2 days), but the virus can survive for up to a year in the environment, so cats may become infected without ever coming into direct contact with an infected cat. Bedding, cages, food dishes, and the hands or clothing of people who handle the infected cat may harbor the virus and transmit it to other cats. It is, therefore, very important to isolate infected cats. Any materials used on or for infected cats should not be used or allowed to come in contact with other cats, and people handling infected cats should practice proper hygiene to prevent spreading the infection. The virus that causes FP is difficult to destroy and resistant to many disinfectants. Ideally, unvaccinated cats should not be allowed into an area where an infected cat has been — even if the area has been disinfected.”

Signs and symptoms

“The first visible signs an owner might notice include generalized depression, loss of appetite, high fever, lethargy, vomiting, severe diarrhea, nasal discharge and dehydration. Sick cats may sit for long periods of time in front of their water bowls but not drink much water. In some cats, the fever will come and go during the illness and abruptly fall to lower-than-normal levels shortly before death. In young kittens, the virus can also damage the brain and the eyes.”

Are some cats more susceptable?

“While cats of any age may be infected with the feline parvovirus that causes FP, young kittens, sick cats, and unvaccinated cats are most susceptible. It is most commonly seen in cats 3-5 months of age; death from FP is more common at this age.”