Virus kills 80 cats in refuge

A deadly feline virus has been brought under control at the Algarve’s largest cat rescue and adoption centre, but street cats and unvaccinated pets elsewhere in the region and throughout the country are still at risk.

The Feline Panleukopenia Virus (FPV), also known as feline distemper or cat plague, is highly aggressive and contagious. It kills within a week, sometimes within 24 hours.

The outbreak in the Carvoeiro Cat Charity (CCC) refuge near Porches started with the impromptu arrival of a single infected kitten. It ended up killing 80 cats, about 25% of the total number being cared for.

The early symptoms include loss of appetite, lethargy, diarrhoea and vomiting, though some animals show no symptoms at all.

“Cats that have been vaccinated are relatively secure from contracting the virus,” said the German founder of the charity, Corinna Janiec.

The scourge has been brought under control through the dedicated efforts of Corinna and a small but dedicated team of volunteers. Each of the infected animals had to be brought to a veterinary surgery for tough treatment involving intravenous drips and antibiotics.

It is estimated that adult cats have a 10–20% mortality rate if treated and an 85% mortality rate if not treated. Young cats and those with a deficient immune system are the most vulnerable to FPV. Kittens have a 60–70% mortality rate with treatment and a nearly 100% mortality rate if not treated.

While the virus is mainly passed on from one cat to another, it can also be spread by humans coming into contact with bodily fluids or faeces of infected animals.

Despite the eradication at the CCC refuge, key safety and hygiene measures are still in place. Copious amounts of disinfectant are in use and regular changes of overalls and face masks by volunteers are part of the ‘all day, every day’ cleaning programme.

A reasonably assured ‘all-clear’ could still be two years away.

Meanwhile, the intake of dumped or otherwise abandoned cats, particularly kittens, will necessarily be greatly restricted. The search for permanent adoption homes for healthy animals goes on.

Running the refuge depends entirely on donations and volunteers. Bringing the recent FPV crisis under control cost thousands of euros and has severely strained the CCC’s resources. Raising sufficient money for normal essentials such as food and litter is difficult enough, but the extra veterinary and other bills has caused financial problems.

The CCC has a charity shop in Ferragudo and a fund-raising dinner is scheduled for the Tasquinha restaurant in Carvoeiro in March.

Those who would like to make a donation or consider volunteering for a few hours one day a week can find information here:

[email protected] | Facebook: CarvoeiroCatCharity |