Virus forces Prince William shelter to stop cat adoptions

UPDATE: Seventy three cats had to be euthanized on Monday and Tuesday because they all had feline calicivirus.

PREVIOUSLY on Tuesday, Sept. 22 at 10 a.m.:

WASHINGTON — For the next two to three weeks, the Prince William County Animal Shelter has stopped cat adoptions and cat intakes.

The shelter made the moves to “ensure that no additional infection is introduced to the shelter,” a news release says.

The majority of cats in the shelter have been infected by the Calicivirus, which also is known as Calici.

It’s a highly contagious virus that causes upper respiratory and oral disease in cats. It can cause pneumonia, severe painful oral ulceration and sometimes painful arthritis.

“The virus has a tendency to mutate, rendering preventative vaccinations in a shelter environment virtually ineffective. Since Calici is a virus, there is no specific treatment, only supportive care,” the news release says.

Cats that recover are infected for long periods and continue to shed the virus.

The shelter cautions cat owners to be concerned, particularly if their cats roam freely outside and if they leave food for community cats. Those who monitor cat colonies also should be concerned.

“Calicivirus is spread primarily by contact with an infected animal’s aerosolized respiratory excretions, urine, and feces. It can also be spread through contact with bedding, food dishes, as well as the hands, clothing, and shoes of people who have handled infected animals,” the shelter says.

Since the shelter vaccinates cats for upper respiratory infections, viruses, such as Calici, do not start there. Instead, the shelter’s veterinarian says the virus is brought into the shelter and has to then be managed.

People and dogs cannot get the virus from cats.

The shelter recommends that if that owners take cats with signs of possible calicivirus to their veterinarians.

The upper respiratory infection symptoms include the following:

  • Sneezing
  • Nasal congestion
  • Conjunctivitis (inflammation of the membranes lining the eyelids)
  • Discharges from the nose or eyes. These may be clear or may contain pus.
Colleen Kelleher

Colleen Kelleher is an award-winning journalist who has been with WTOP since 1996. Kelleher joined WTOP as the afternoon radio writer and night and weekend editor and made the move to in 2001. Now she works early mornings as the site's Senior Digital Editor.

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