Four kittens are dead and the no-kill animal shelter in Whynotts Settlement is closed until at least early August as the charity works to rid their Mullock Road building of a highly contagious viral disease that's life-threatening to felines.
The SHAID Tree Animal Shelter is dealing with an outbreak of what their veterinarian is confident is Feline Distemper, an easily-spread virus that can be deadly to young cats and kittens. Only a necropsy, which carries with it a high price-tag, can confirm it's the feline parvovirus.
SHAID's animal health care provider is "99 per cent" certain the charity is dealing with distemper, shelter manager Kelly Inglis told LighthouseNOW.
As of early last week, 20 cats, ranging from three weeks old to seven years of age, are in quarantine. Inglis said the cats seemed fine at the moment but their condition can deteriorate quickly because of the power of distemper. "As of today (July 9) everybody looks good," she said.
Two of four kittens dropped off within the previous three weeks died not long after arriving at SHAID. Both died within a short time of one another while in the quarantined area where cats remain until they're spaded, neutered and vaccinated before clearance for potential adoption.
Inglis said after the second death the remaining to kittens were taken to the vet clinic where it was advised the shelter close immediately and isolate the cats. Feline Distemper, which cannot be passed on to humans or dogs, claimed two more kittens of a different litter - eight weeks old - since then.
SHAID posted its temporary closure notice online July 5, informing the public it would last indefinitely.
Inglis said it's believed an older unvaccinated cat that arrived at the shelter carried the distemper. She said older felines don't exhibit the symptoms (diarrhea, vomiting, sluggish, reclusive). The virus also isn't as common in adult cats.
For the time being, SHAID can't accept any new cats as they work daily disinfecting the shelter. No one except authorized staff is allowed in or out. The virus can be spread between water and food dishes, via litter boxes, clothes and shoes.
"One flick of the litter from one cage to another and, boom, your kitten's got it. That's how easy it can be spread among unvaccinated cats," Inglis said.
The next steps continue to be vaccinations, maintain quarantine, watch for symptoms - and keep the collective fingers crossed until the veterinarian gives the all-clear.
In the meantime, donations of bleach, latex gloves, kitty litter and other cleaning supplies are welcomed. The items can be dropped off at Shur-Gain Feeds'n Needs in Cookville.
Inglis said gloves are discarded after cleaning of one cat cage. Seventy cages are wiped down per day.
She said at least one 1.8 litre container of bleach is used a day in the quarantine area as the substance is known to kill the virus. The shelter is also going through four 18 kilogram bags of litter a day as the boxes are cleaned in their entirety - not just the removal of clumps.
Inglis, who's only assumed the managerial role for a matter of weeks, said it's believed the only other time the shelter closed to the public temporarily was about five years ago when it shut down for about a month to deal with an outbreak of ringworm.