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Racine Campus temporarily suspends cat adoptions

8.26.14: Cat adoptions in Racine will resume on Thursday, September 2.

RACINE – The Wisconsin Humane Society (WHS) announced today that it will be temporarily suspending cat adoptions until September 2 at its Racine Campus after four cats tested positive for Feline Panleukopenia Virus (FPV), a contagious and often fatal disease.

Dog and small animal adoptions are unaffected, as the virus is not transmissible to animals other than cats. Adoptions at the Milwaukee and Ozaukee Campuses will remain open as usual.

Veterinary staff suspect that an adult stray cat brought the disease into the shelter on August 7 and infected others. All four of the cats who were FPV positive were either humanely euthanized or died from the disease.

"While this is very rare incident for us, we can't be too careful when dealing with a virus as serious as panleukopenia,” said Dr. Nancy Weiss, Director of Veterinary Services at WHS. “Aside from the four cats who tested positive for the virus, we have a few other suspicious cases, so we are erring on the side of caution by temporarily suspending cat adoptions at Racine pending test results.” 

Shelter staff will be performing testing to determine which cats have the necessary antibodies to be protected against the virus; some of those cats may be released for adoption at WHS’s other locations. All others will be held for observation to be sure they are not incubating FPV.

“We vaccinate upon intake at our shelters, so most of the cats should be protected,” said Dr. Weiss, “but there is a small window before vaccination during which a cat could be exposed, and in addition, some kittens may not be fully protected even after the first vaccine.”

While humane society officials don’t expect the illness to affect cats recently adopted from the Racine Campus, they are advising people to watch for signs that include lethargy, vomiting, loss of appetite and diarrhea, and to contact their veterinarian and WHS if their cat does display those signs. 

As a precautionary measure to limit exposure to the virus, the Racine Campus has also canceled their vaccine clinic scheduled for Thursday, August 21. For a full schedule of vaccine clinics at the Milwaukee, Racine and Ozaukee Campuses, visit

The shelter requests that individuals needing to surrender their animal make an appointment to do so by calling 262-554-6699.

What is Panleukopenia?

Feline Panleukopenia Virus (FPV), also commonly referred to as feline distemper, is a highly contagious and often fatal viral disease that affects cats. The virus causes a marked decrease in white blood cells, leaving affected cats susceptible to secondary bacterial infections. Symptoms include vomiting, fever, lethargy, loss of appetite and diarrhea. 

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), FPV is one of the most commonly diagnosed causes of disease and death in domestic cats.

Although FPV can be a fatal illness in cats and is very contagious, the vaccine for FPV is very effective. In order to keep your cats safe from FPV and other contagious diseases, it is important to keep them current on their vaccinations.

How is it transmitted?

The virus is spread by contact between infected cats or with their excretions, including feces, urine, saliva and vomit. Fleas may also transmit FPV.  Fomites (contaminated objects) are another means of disease transmission. Common fomites include hands, food and water dishes, litter pans, bedding, or even by clothing and shoes of handlers of infected animals.

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