UPAWS reopens indoors to public after feline virus outbreak

For a month and a half, staff were dealing with at least 30 infected and dying cats and kittens
Published: Jul. 19, 2022 at 6:09 PM EDT
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SANDS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WLUC) - UPAWS in Marquette County reopened its indoors to the public after a deadly virus circulated involving cats and kittens.

On June 2nd, the facility stopped indoor visits because of the spread of Feline Panleukopenia Virus. That is a contagious and deadly illness that is spread when cats make contact with infected saliva, blood or feces.

According to Vet Assistant Laura Rochefort, the spread was rampant.

“The kittens were kind of just sitting there hunkered down, then we noticed ‘we’re not eating,’” said Rochefort. “And then we started noticing vomiting, diarrhea and diarrhea with blood. It can also progress very quickly within a day or two.”

At least 30 cats and kittens were infected, about three-quarters of the shelter’s population. Almost two-thirds of the infected animals died. Executive Director Bill Brutto said seeing the staff in gowns and the rapid spread reminded him of COVID.

“We were trying to not cross-contaminate, and we were quarantining the cats that were sick and making sure that the healthy ones were away from any areas where the sick cats were at,” Brutto said.

As a result of the situation adoptions, in general, went down and staff like Rochefort said they had a lot of work to do to save as many cats and kittens as they could.

“It was just really hard seeing these cats starting to get sick,” Rochefort said. “Even once we caught [the virus], because mortality rate can be so high, we were putting in a lot of extra time. We’re giving them fluids, syringe feeding, and giving lots of medications.”

On a “pawsitive” note, the shelter reopened in time for the upcoming National Best Friend Adoption Weekend.

“We get to celebrate with our community and have the opportunity to as many adoptions as possible,” said Brutto.

Both Brutto and Rochefort advise everyone who has a pet to call their local veterinarian in case something is wrong or to schedule any vaccinations.

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