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After several cats tested positive for a contagious and sometime fatal disease, the Wisconsin Humane Society has suspended cat adoptions at its Racine campus until Sept. 2.

Four cats tested positive for Feline Panleukopenia Virus, also known as feline distemper. The disease is highly contagious and is an often fatal viral disease that affects cats, according to a press release by the Wisconsin Humane Society.

Dogs and small animals are not affected because the disease does not transfer between animals other than cats.

Officials believe a stray cat brought to the shelter on Aug. 7 had the disease and infected the other three cats.  The four that had the virus were either euthanized or died from the disease.

“While this is very rare incident for us, we can’t be too careful when dealing with a virus as serious as panleukopenia,” said Dr. Nancy Weiss, director of Veterinary Services at WHS. “Aside from the four cats who tested positive for the virus, we have a few other suspicious cases, so we are erring on the side of caution by temporarily suspending cat adoptions at Racine pending test results.”

Staff are testing the other cats in the shelter to see if they have the antibodies to fight the virus. If those tests show that the cats have the antibodies, they may be allowed to be adopted at the other WHS locations. The others will be held at the Racine location to be kept under observation.

“We vaccinate upon intake at our shelters, so most of the cats should be protected, but there is a small window before vaccination during which a cat could be exposed, and in addition, some kittens may not be fully protected even after the first vaccine,” Weiss said.

Cats recently adopted from the Racine campus aren’t expected to be affected by the disease, but owners are asked to watch their animals for signs of the illness. Symptoms include: lethargy, vomiting, loss of appetite and diarrhea, and to contact their veterinarian and WHS if their cat does display those signs.

As a precaution, the Racine Campus is canceling the vaccine clinic scheduled for Aug. 21. Here’s a schedule of vaccine clinics at the Milwaukee, Racine and Ozaukee campuses. People looking to surrender their animals are being asked to make an appointment by calling (262) 554-6699.


Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.