Panleukopenia outbreak closes cat adoption, intake at San Marcos shelter

Nine cats and 44 kittens have died as the result of a feline panleukopenia outbreak at the San Marcos Regional Animal Shelter. 

The shelter is closing the cat adoption center and will not be accepting new cats until at least Thursday June 6, according to a release from the city.

Feline panleukopenia is a highly contagious viral disease of cats caused by the feline parvovirus. Kittens are most severely affected by the virus, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association

Young kittens and sick and unvaccinated cats are the most susceptible, with death being more common in cats three to five months of age, says the AVMA.

The disease is not contagious to humans.

“We actually had a mom cat come in who was not feeling super well. So we treated her like she had an upper respiratory infection and she just wasn't getting better,” shelter supervisor Erin McCann said. "We decided to run further tests on her and discovered she had Panleukopenia."

The AVMA says feline panleukopenia's symptoms can be similar to other illnesses such as salmonella or campylobacter infections, pancreatitis, or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) or feline leukemia virus (FLV) infections.

“The worst stage of it shows diarrhea, they'll be throwing up, lethargic, not eating or drinking,” McCann said.

Since then, shelter staff say other cats may have come into the shelter that were exposed prior to their arrival. 

According to the shelter, all animals are vaccinated within two to 24 hours of intake, but due to the number of kittens being surrendered and lack of space, some were moved from the isolation room into other parts of the shelter before being vaccinated.

The shelter says it is in the process of containing and decontaminating the shelter, and staff are testing and watching all cats currently in their care. Cats will not be available for adoption until test results and a necessary observation period are concluded.

The shelter says making sure pets have up-to-date vaccinations is the best way to protect against feline panleukopenia, as the virus appears to be currently active in Hays County. The AVMA says vaccinations are equally important for indoor cats as indoor/outdoor cats as the virus is everywhere. 

The shelter is seeking the community's immediate help with donations as staff will likely have to throw away cat treats, toys and small beds, as well as use a large amount of cleaning supplies to decontaminate. 

Those wishing to donate can help by either purchasing needed supplies via the shelter’s Amazon Wishlist or making monetary donations through Mutt Strutt San Marcos.

Volunteers are also needed to assist with regular cleaning in the dog areas to help keep dogs available and adoptions moving. Those interested can apply here.