Vaccination in Cat Shelters Is Absolutely Essential

A recent article by Elisa Black-Taylor about an outbreak of feline panleukopenia (aka feline parvovirus, feline distemper) at the Hartnett County Animal Shelter got me thinking. The outbreak resulted in the euthanasia of all the cats in the shelter in order to prevent the spread of the infection (55 approx.). The virus which causes this disease is highly contagious.

The most common cause of sudden death in kittens and cats in shelters is by this virus. A disease this contagious and fatal (90% in kittens shortly after birth) needs to be treated with the utmost respect and vaccination of all cats on intake into shelters must be the cornerstone of prevention. In fact, Cornell University, College of Veterinary Medicine state that vaccination is “absolutely essential” in shelters.

Susan Shaddock tells us that Hartnett County Animal Shelter do not vaccinate incoming cats. Apparently they can’t afford to vaccinate. But it is essential. It must be done and if they can’t afford to vaccinate they can’t afford to run the shelter properly and therefore there must be a question mark as to whether the shelter should exist.

The vaccination protocol of cats for feline parvovirus in shelters is rigourous. All cats of four weeks of age and older should receive the vaccine. As I understand it is a combination vaccine, FVRCP, which covers the cat cold and parvovirus.

The vaccine should be given to cats regardless of “intake status”, which means from any source. It should be given immediately without any delay. Even a delay of one day can increase the risk of infection significantly.

Further, all kittens should be re-vaccinated every two weeks while in the shelter until they are five months of age. This is because maternally derived antibodies (antibodies received from the mother in the womb) can interfere with the vaccination in kittens less than four months old.

In addition, juvenile cats should be segregated from adults. Kittens should not be housed with adult cats. Also, an extra strategy to prevent the spread of parvovirus infection is to move kittens from the shelter into foster as soon as possible after intake provided the foster carer’s housing does not have a history of parvovirus-infected cats.

I have simply touched on one or two points in this article. I am indebted to Maddie’s Fund for some of the above information. This is a big subject requiring further reading.

Finally, the veterinarian associated with the Hartnett County Animal Shelter, is Dr Ralph Houser (either retained or visiting). His background (as stated on the internet) is less than attractive in my opinion. He is known as the gas chamber salesman. In fact he manufactured and sold gas chambers for shelter animals. This of course was during the time when they were more acceptable. They are positively unacceptable today but he is alleged to have misdiagnosed feline parvovirus in this instance. Susan says that he came to the shelter and diagnosed by simply looking at the cats.


Maddie’s Fund also refers to diagnosis. I’d like to make a quick note about it here on this page. This is because the veterinarian either retained or employed by the shelter allegedly misdiagnosed parvovirus. It is said that the diagnosis of this disease should be performed using diagnostic testing using a “point of care test kit” for the detection of parvovirus antigens in faeces. This is a cost-effective and quick method to diagnose parvovirus. The test kits are: IDEXX, AGEN, Synbiotics. One reason why a test kit is required is because other diseases mimic feline parvovirus. It would appear that Dr Houser performed his duties too casually and without sufficient care.

Read Elisa’s article.

6 thoughts on “Vaccination in Cat Shelters Is Absolutely Essential”

  1. We’ve never been a fan of overvaccination. We have a kitten who was trapped and will be going for surgery in a few weeks then onto her forever home. We vaccinated her and she’ll get a booster at the time of surgery and that’s it. We haven’t lost a personal cat to illness since December 2011 and that was from the shelter not telling us about the panleuk outbreak and it was still in the house. The virus can live for MONTHS on surfaces even with disinfecting.

  2. Some shelters are even trying to talk owner surrenders into waiting a week to turn in a pet. The shelter vaccinates the animal against a contagious disease, the animal goes home and comes back a week later.

  3. Maddies Fund? The same outfit that promotes and recommends “Return To Field” for all unadoptable cats, whether feral or tame? That Maddies Fund? The one who promotes that any and all cats and kittens be pulled from any and all shelters and released into unknown locations in the hopes they might one day find their original owners? That Maddies Fund? The one that parades injured cats in the media for donations? Cats that they injure by dumping them into traffic in the hopes they’ll make it back home. That Maddies Fund? What a great resource for knowledge and humane treatment of animals.

    This site is without a doubt nutso.

    • One has to be very careful before following the advice of the experts. Even Cornell publishes some awful stuff. I wonder how much experience they have in rescuing and caring for sick cats and kittens.

      • Yes, Harvey, I agree that experts are not always experts. But I think it is fair to say that with respect to vaccinations and cat shelters, common sense applies which dictates that vaccinations under these particular circumstances are essential. Sometimes vaccinations are problematic but I think you will find in every instance from every type of person involved with cat and animal shelters that vaccinations are an essential part of protecting the animals in their charge.

    • I think, Beth, that you will find that every expert involved with cat shelters and every veterinarian involving cat shelters would argue that vaccinations are essential to incoming cats and kittens. Some of them may already be vaccinated but you have to vaccinate even though there are risks with vaccinations because the risks of getting an infection in a shelter are higher. I have quoted both Cornell and Maddie’s Fund but I could have gone elsewhere and found the same advice. Therefore I don’t know why you are harping on about Maddie’s Fund.

      You find a resource, the best that you can, and tell me whether they recommend vaccinations or no vaccinations for cats and kittens coming into animal shelters.


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