Blackpool cat rescue closes after deadly parvovirus outbreak kills 11 former strays

A Blackpool cat rescue has been forced into a state of temporary closure following the outbreak of a deadly virus which proves fatal in up to 90 per cent of cases.

Tuesday, 4th January 2022, 12:19 pm

Fylde Coast Cats on Newhouse Road has closed its doors to strays after unknowingly taking in a litter of kittens infected with feline panleukopenia - or parvovirus - in late November.

The highly infectious disease quickly spread to other unvaccinated cats living at the rescue.

In total, 11 cats died over the Christmas period, including all five kittens, and one pet belonging to owner Kim Millard.

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Cruella and Freddo, of Fylde Coast Cats

She said: "It's a horrific disease. In kittens, it's 90 per cent fatal. And it spreads like wildfire.

"It's hard to say exactly where it has come from, but we're fairly sure it's from a litte of kittens from Cleveleys. These kittens we had for two weeks, and some of them had went off to new homes, which was heartbreaking. The first positive case we knew of was from a kitten who had gone to a new home; we directed the owners to our vets and they diagnosed it, and of course then everything went into lockdown.

"But because it took two weeks to identify, it had already spread. It's so contagious; if I wore the same clothes going from one pen to the next that would spread it. Everything has to be bleached. We've thrown out so many cat posts and scratchers,

"The cattery will be defunct for a while. It's difficult to say how long. I don't want to take more on too soon because for me, it has been really difficult. Mentally it has taken its toll.

Sole survivor Cruella need a new home

"It has been horrendous. When we first spoke to the vets they suggested we just put everything in the rescue to sleep, which is what one of the larger, better known organisations would do, but that's not our style.

Feline panleukopenia is an uncommon but extremely contagrious virus which destroys the rapidly dividing cells in a cat's body. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, loss of appetite, dehydration, and nasal discharge.

The disease, which cannot spread to humans, kills up to 90 per cent of kittens it infects, and 50 per cent of adult cats. Vaccines protect against the disease, however, most of the animals taken in by Fylde Coast Cats are strays, meaning many had not been vaccinated.

Only one rescue kitten who caught feline panleukopenia survived: 14-week-old Cruella, who tragically lost her sister Estella to the disease.

Kim said: "Her chances of survival were next to none, but she's one tough cookie."

Cruella, who was hand-reared after being found abandoned with her sister in Grange Park, is now vaccinated and looking for her new home with another cat, seven-month-old Freddo.

They are currently being looked after away from the cattery as three cats remain there awaiting vaccination.

Anyone who is interested in adopting Cruella and Freddo can call the rescue on 07907716928.

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