Cat quarantine to lift Saturday

A quarantine of cats at a California animal shelter is expected to lift Saturday after an outbreak of feline panleukopenia.

The outbreak began Sept. 19, 2011 with the death of the first cat at the County of Santa Clara Animal Shelter in San Martin, Calif. The cat’s sibling then died a day later, prompting the shelter to impose a quarantine on Sept. 20. On Sept. 24, another cat died, bringing the total number of feline deaths to three.

The cats have all been young (approximately a year old), vaccinated felines that have been at the shelter since May, said shelter spokesperson Brigid Wasson.

Wasson said a shelter veterinarian thought that the stress of having been at the shelter for so long, combined with immune issues, could have contributed to the contraction of FPV and ultimate death.

Despite the three deaths, Wasson said the outbreak could be worse.

"Even though we lost those three and it’s been difficult, in the past we have had 100 cases [of FPV]," Wasson said. "It’s going a lot better now than it could be."

In recent years, the shelter has stepped up its vaccination program. In the past, there was no feral cat program, and the shelter euthanized every feral cat that came in, before issuing a FPV vaccination. Now, every cat receives a vaccination.

"Cats, kittens, feral cats, barn cats – everyone gets vaccinated now," Wasson said. "We also make sure to booster everyone after two weeks."

An older building, the Santa Clara Animal Shelter has inadequate ventilation and small cages that make it difficult to quarantine rooms. Wasson said the vaccines must be helping since no more major outbreaks have occurred.

To ensure no potential adopters are turned away during the quarantine, Wasson said the shelter has been giving out rain checks that include the adopter’s name, phone number and what they’re looking for. They can return to adopt after the quarantine is lifted, or be referred to one of the shelter’s rescue partners.

The quarantine will lift Oct. 8 provided that no additional felines test positive for FPV.