Alert for contagious and dangerous cat virus

Picture: Robert Shakespeare
Picture: Robert Shakespeare

Cat owners across Victoria are urged to take precautions against a highly contagious and potentially deadly virus in a bid to stop it spreading across the state.

The Victorian division of the Australian Veterinary Association and RSPCA Victoria are reminding all cat owners to ensure their pets receive their necessary vaccinations, following multiple confirmed cases of the panleukopenia virus in stray kittens in the Melbourne area.

The virus, which is highly contagious and difficult to control, causes a severe and often fatal gastroenteritis.

The faeces, urine, saliva or vomit of an infected cat – along with contaminated surfaces – are all sources of transmission, as can be the clothing and shoes of those who come into contact with infected animals.

Symptoms of the illness include diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite, fever, vomiting and dehydration.

A cat or kitten will typically show symptoms two days after infection.

“Vaccination provides high immunity, which is why these recent confirmed cases of panleukopenia are cause for concern - and action,” AVA president Dr Paula Parker said.

Dr Parker said cats should be vaccinated each year with the F3 vaccine.

RSPCA Victoria chief executive officer Dr Liz Walker said while all animals adopted through the organisation were health-checked and vaccinated, the concern laid with stray kittens brought into its care.

But she said the organisation had strict quarantine and biosecurity measures in place.

“The best way to control a contagious disease is to create a ‘herd immunity’, whereby a large proportion of the population is vaccinated, reducing the likelihood of any disease spreading,” Dr Walker said.

Young kittens require a final vaccination booster around 16 weeks of age.

Anyone whose cat shows signs of the disease should seek veterinarian advice.