The spread of a virus among cats at the Humane Society of Indianapolis has resulted in a quarantine at the shelter and the euthanization of more than sixty cats.

Last week, HSI discovered the presence of a spread of virulent systemic feline calicivirus (VS-FCV). While the virus does not affect humans or dogs, it spreads quickly among cats, often with devastating results.

"It's similar to H1N1 for cats," explains Christine Jeschke, Director of Shelter Operations. "We vaccinate all the cats at the shelter for the regular form of this virus, but this is a mutant, more severe, version of that virus that spreads quickly."

With nearly 200 cats in its care when the virus was discovered, HSI moved as quickly as possible to isolate the infected animals from the general population. Jescke says the shelter hopes to save its remaining 114 cats after euthanizing 65 who suffered symptoms of the disease. Those 100+ cats will remain quarantined at the shelter and unavailable for adoption for another two weeks.

According to HSI, staff took immediate action upon discovering VS-FCV, which rapidly mutated and affected the majority of the shelter's cats. Those who were euthanized suffered severe, rapidly formed symptoms such as oral ulcers, swollen limbs, crusting of the face, hair loss, and temperatures of up to 106 degrees, and some were nearing stages of pneumonia and not eating.

Three cats who were not exposed to the mutant strain of VS-FCV are in foster care and available for adoption, and the shelter is seeking supply donations to help the others through the two- to six-week quarantine period.

"Our veterinary staff has discussed the situation at length with vets at both Purdue's School of Veterinary Medicine and the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in order to follow best lifesaving protocols," says Jeschke. "They confirmed that we are following recommended vaccine and disinfecting protocols, and this outbreak was not the result of anything we did or did not do."

During the quarantine, HSI will not be accepting stray or surrendered cats, as all available resources are being devoted to saving the lives of the cats in quarantine. The shelter is, however, continue regular operations for dogs including adoption services, the pet park, pet retail store, and dog training classes.

HSI's few available cats can be viewed at indyhumane.org. The shelter also encourages people to consider its animal-welfare partners Southside Animal Shelter, ARPO, Cats Haven, and Indianapolis Animal Care and Control if interested in adopting a cat.

If you'd like to help HSI save its 100+ remaining cats and make them comfortable during the quarantine period, please donate paper towels, bleach, bleach disinfecting wipes, disposable latex gloves, disposable restaurant style gloves (thin clear plastic), disposable shoe covers, medical scrubs, old bath towels and sheets, canned cat food, litter, cat scratchers, and cat toys to the shelter, located at 7929 Michigan Rd.

For more on VS-FCV: http://www.sheltermedicine.com/portal/is_vsfcv.shtm

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