Infectious disease is a major problem in cat shelters. The infection rate goes up 2 to 3 fold when a cat enters a rescue shelter. Some shelters at certain times may be worse places for a cat than being left out as an uncared for stray cat.
Methods used to try and prevent infectious diseases taking hold in cat shelters are:
- Quarantine for new cats entering the shelter.
- “Maintaining cats in small, stable groups that are allowed to dwindle as cats are re-homed. Small groups should not be combined for easier management.”
- House kittens together and apart from adult cats.
- Cats should be vaccinated 7-10 days after arrival “when general health and disease status have been evaluated”.
- Short stay cats should be housed apart from long stay cats.
- “..care should be taken to restrict access of any shelter cats as they are sometimes allowed to roam free and may carry infection into or spread infection around the rescue facility.”
- Accommodation should be easy to clean and should be designed to prevent the spread of disease to other cages e.g. sneeze barriers, wide corridors and a room for cleaning and grooming.
- Equipment should be confined to each group or individual and hygiene measures taken such as ‘boot dips’.
- “Cats should be cleaned in the order from the least likely to be infectious to the most likely group.”
- Shelters staffers should be fully trained on the principles of hygiene in shelters.
- Stress levels should be minimised through environmental enrichment and good caretaking.
Reference and quotes: Kit Sturgess MA, VetMB, PhD, DSAM, CertVR, CertVC, MRCVS writing in The Welfare of Cats pages 218-219. I quoted extensively for accuracy and it was impractical to personalise the text as it is technical.