Herding cats – a feline health program
Outbreaks of the deadly Feline Panleukopaenia Virus (FPV, feline parvo, feline enteritis) were identified across Sydney in early 2017. It was the first outbreak in almost 40 years.
Many Sydney vets had never dealt with it due to the effectiveness of the standard F3 vaccine. However, the virus is highly contagious and in February, Blacktown Pound and other facilities were closed due to the outbreak.
Herd immunity requires that greater than 70% of the population is vaccinated.
To help restore herd immunity to FPV in the Sydney feline population before the next kitten season (September/October) Cat Protection is running a feline health program: Herding cats offering $10 vaccination and veterinary health checks for up to 200 cats.
An Ipsos survey in May 2017 commissioned by Cat Protection found that of the owned cat population surveyed, 78% had been vaccinated.
“But, much of the Sydney cat population is unowned, and not all cats’ vaccinations are current, so it is very unlikely that the target of 70%+ required for herd immunity is being met,” Cat Protection CEO Kristina Vesk said.
“Kitten season means the unowned cat population will grow, further reducing the percentage of immunised cats. Having no immunity, kittens will be at very high risk.
“The risk is exacerbated by the likelihood that FPV is still present in the environment.
“FPV is aggressive and causes great pain and suffering. It is almost always fatal in kittens and while supportive treatment can improve survival rates for healthy adults, the prognosis is very rarely good.
“We want to see feline herd immunity restored. We want to herd cats for vaccination.
“If you own a cat, please check with your vet when your cat’s vaccination is due.
“If you are on a low income (pensioner, health care card holder) our Herding cats program is offering $10 vaccinations and health checks at participating vet clinics across Sydney, for up to 200 cats. To take up the offer, call our office on 9519 7201 and we will refer you to the nearest participating vet.
“At the appointment, cat owners will be asked whether the vet can also take a blood sample from the cat for a research study into FPV that is being conducted by the University of Sydney.
“We know vaccination is protective but there is still much to learn about this dreadful virus, so we’re really pleased to be supporting the research led by University of Sydney Professor of Feline Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Vanessa Barrs. And we’re grateful to the vets participating in this program with us – they are making a wonderful contribution. Together with cat owners, we can fight this deadly virus,” Ms Vesk said.
FPV is contagious and can survive long periods in the environment. While it cannot be passed on to humans, the virus can infect both dogs and cats. It is preventable through the standard F3 vaccination. All unvaccinated cats and kittens, as well as kittens who have not completed the full immunisation course and adult cats who have not received booster vaccines, are at risk.
In young kittens, FPV is almost always fatal, even when treatment is provided. There is no cure but supportive treatment (eg intravenous fluids and treatment of secondary infections) can assist survival rates, particularly in older kittens and adult cats.
The Herding cats program will run until 8 September or until all places have been filled.
Participating vets will be paid for their work but they are charging Cat Protection reduced rates.
The University of Sydney research is examining present levels of immunity in cats in Sydney.
Cat Protection has already provided free F3 vaccinations to more than 300 cats around Sydney, with the support of veterinarians from the University of Sydney and our own network of discount desexing vets.
All cats and kittens admitted to Cat Protection’s shelter are vaccinated on arrival and continue to receive vaccinations according to the appropriate schedule (consistent with World Small Animal Veterinary Association vaccination guidelines).
This is also a good time to remind pet owners that canine parvovirus is also a dreadful infectious disease and dog owners should make sure their dog/puppy’s vaccination schedule is up-to-date.
A veterinary health check and F3 vaccination will cost on average between $60 and $90 in Sydney.
The F3 is a core vaccine for cats, covering feline herpesvirus, feline calicivirus and feline parvovirus. There are two types of vaccine: modified live which is fast acting but not recommended for pregnant or sick cats; and killed (inactivated) vaccines.