Animal Welfare

Denton Animal Shelter Freezes Cat Adoptions Because of Respiratory Virus

Denton animal shelter stopped adopting out or taking in cats during a clear the shelter event due to a contagious feline virus.
Denton animal shelter stopped adopting out or taking in cats during a clear the shelter event due to a contagious feline virus. Kate Pezzulli
The Linda McNatt Animal Care & Adoption Center, which has been in operation since 2015, was at capacity when it decided to do an early clear-the-shelter event running June 27-July 2.

However, in a June 30 press release, the city postponed all cat adoptions, surrenders and intakes for 10 calendar days because of an outbreak of calicivirus, a highly contagious cat virus that has spread through the shelter.

The virus isn't deadly but does cause an upper respiratory infection in felines. “It’s so easily transmittable,” said Tiffany Thomson, the director of human resources with the city of Denton. “One little kitty sneezes and the room full of kitties has the potential of getting it.”

While every cat taken in by the shelter gets vaccinated, including for the calicivirus, they are taking all precautions necessary to prevent any further spread by putting towels over the cats’ cages and giving them antibiotics to help boost their immune system.

They have also contacted all new cat owners who adopted during the event before they noticed the infection and notified them about how to watch for symptoms.

The clear-the-shelter event came ahead of the Denton fireworks display that happened on July 3 at North Lakes Park, which is located close to the animal shelter.

"It’s so easily transmittable." - Tiffany Thomson, city of Denton

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Some worried that the fireworks display would harm or disturb the animals at the center. But Thomson said that the event occurred not because of the city’s display, but because the shelter was already at capacity.

“A lot of times clear-the-shelter happens in August, but summer times are the busiest months for animal services, so we just took the opportunity to go ahead and do it too,” Thomson said.

The infection likely came from two cats that were taken in by the center, one domestic and one feral, that had the virus when they arrived.

“Also, more than likely what happened is we had an asymptomatic cat come in here and didn’t know it had it,” said Thomson. “[We] still vaccinated for it, but if it’s already shedding that virus, it’s super hard to contain.”

The calicivirus doesn't affect dogs, so dog adoptions continued through July 3.

“I just really appreciate the public’s support in it. It’s always hard when you have a virus in a shelter. We try to do everything to mitigate that when it happens,” Thomson said. “Hopefully we’ll be up and running … with our cat adoptions [after the 10 days]. But dogs, ready to go, come and get a dog. They need a home.”

In mid-June, a distemper outbreak among dogs forced several SPCA of Texas shelters to temporarily close down.

Last November, dogs at the Dallas Animal Shelter experienced a surge in distemper and upper respiratory infections.
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Kate Pezzulli, an editorial fellow for the Observer, is a graduate student at the Mayborn School of Journalism at UNT. Besides storytelling, she likes sailing, working on Jeeps, camping, potting and baking. Voted No. 1 friend in an apocalypse.
Contact: Kate Pezzulli