BALTIMORE — Several cats have died from a rare and highly contagious disease that has broken out at BARCS after they took in 133 from a hoarding case last week. They have paused cat intake for two weeks while they care for the 50 cats in quarantine.
“It’s unfortunate that we have 133 cats that are potentially exposed or compromised in some way but it’s rare and it’s preventable,” said Bailey Deacon, the director of community engagement at BARCS.
The disease is panleukopenia, also known as feline distemper or feline parvo. It’s rare because most kittens are vaccinated for it.
“It is part of a regular combo vaccine that every cat gets here at BARCS when they get adopted,” said Deacon.
It was part of the intake of all the cats from this hoarding case, as it is for the 7,000 other cats that come through their care.
“Every single one came in, got their vaccines, got examined individually by a vet and got spayed and neutered,” said Deacon.
Because the shelter was already full with 240 before the hoarding case, those that were healthy and friendly, were adopted out or put into foster homes.
Others stayed in the shelter and continued to be cared for and tested for things, including panleuk.
“We were testing for it all the way up until yesterday and it came back negative,” said Deacon.
But because it has a two week incubation period, cats can test negative and later test positive.
Tuesday, a handful tested positive, a week after intake.
“There have been a few cats in the last 24 hours that did go downhill and were too compromised to be able to save,” said Deacon.
50 others still at the shelter that were exposed are under quarantine and being tested every day.
They are also in touch with the 47 families who adopted cats from this case, the rescues who took 37 and the fosters who took 22.
“We are monitoring the condition of every single one and BARCS will be providing free testing and free supportive care to every single one of the adopters,” said Deacon.
While they handle all of it, they have suspended cat intake for two weeks and are asking Baltimoreans who find a lost cat or need to surrender a cat, to hold on to it and contact their resource program if they need supplies (email@example.com), use the BARCS rehoming tool or reach out to other area shelters and rescue groups.
They’re also asking for monetary donations for the testing and medical care and cardboard box tops to be used as litter boxes.
“The protocols call for us to be extremely diligent in this situation so cardboard litter boxes, while it seems like such a silly thing to be asking for in such a tragic moment, we really need them at the shelter,” said Deacon.
There are still cats here at the shelter that were not exposed and are available for adoption. In two weeks, BARCS will re-evaluate the situation to possibly resume intake.