Cat Facilities Open Again After Health Concern at Animal Welfare League


(Thursday, August 30, 2007 5:55 PM EDT)

Visitors to the Animal Welfare League of Arlington who peek their heads into the housing facilities usually are received with an eclectic mix of animal greetings, but recently, cats' meows have not joined the welcoming chorus.

In mid-August, the League closed the cat housing area and suspended cat intake, viewing and adoptions, because of the possible presence of a virulent form of an infectious disease called feline calicivirus.

“We first were notified by an adopter who told us that the two cats he had adopted had become ill,” said the League's executive director Kay Speerstra. “We became concerned that the cats may have gotten sick while they were here.”

Feline calicivirus causes upper respiratory infection with symptoms including fever, oral or nasal ulceration, sneezing, conjunctivitis, acute or chronic gingivitis and mouth inflammation.

Some strains cause limping, joint swelling and pain or pneumonia, especially in young kittens. Even among adult cats, feline calicivirus can be deadly.

The two adopted cats who were reported ill have since been euthanized.

Although it has not been verified that the virus actually is present at the facility (test results are still pending), League staff decided closing the cat housing facility was the right thing to do. To Speerstra's knowledge, this is the first time this facility had ever been closed.

“We are very cautious about closing, and maybe we didn't have to, but you try to find the way to protect the most cats,” she said.

With more than 100 cats currently housed at the shelter, League staff said they were eager to have the cat section up and running, and made the final call to reopen on Friday, August 24.

“We have great animals here, and we want to find them new homes,” Speerstra said.


Toby is among the cats available for adoption at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington's facility in Shirlington. The cat is a 2-year-old American shorthair.
(Animal Welfare League of Arlington)

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