Cape Flats cat owners warned of a spike in deadly cat virus

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Deadly cat virus outbreak
Deadly cat virus outbreak
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  • The Animal Welfare Society of South Africa has warned cat owners to keep a close eye on their cats, following a sharp rise in feline leukaemia cases.
  • The increase in infections has been detected in Cape Flats areas.
  • There is no cure for the illness but it can be prevented.

There is an increase in feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) infections on the Cape Flats, the Animal Welfare Society of South Africa (AWS) has warned.

FeLV has been around for many years but in the past two months, animal welfare staff have noticed a "significant rise in cases".

AWS nursing assistant Jaque le Roux says it's a major concern when owners bring in cats and tell them the pets are sick and have not been eating.

"After we've done blood tests to determine if the cat has the virus, we have to break the news to the owners that the cat has FeLV, and 90% of the owners simply burst into tears.

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Le Roux says that once a cat contracts FeLV, it is advisable to keep it inside to prevent it from spreading the virus to other cats.

Staff member of AWS holding kitten
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The organisation is particularly concerned about the increase of cases on the Cape Flats.

AWS CEO Dr John McMullen says when kittens are born, they must be vaccinated at 6 to 8 weeks and again at 12 to 14 weeks.

"After the second vaccination has been administered, the kitten should be tested for FeLV and feline Aids. If the test results are negative, then the kitten can be vaccinated against FeLV (and feline Aids). Many cat owners think that the multi-valent vaccines cover FeLV, but this is not the case. It is a separate vaccine," McMullen adds.    

However, these protocols can vary from veterinary practice to veterinary practice.

The organisation has stressed that even though there is no cure for FeLV, it can be prevented if strict precautions are taken.

AWS spokesperson Allan Perrins advises that the virus can't be transmitted to people, dogs or other animals, but says that cat owners must still take extra care.

"This virus is passed from one cat to another through saliva, blood and to some extent, urine, faeces and these kittens can contract the disease in utero or through an infected mother's milk," he says.

All cats or kittens that display any of the following symptoms should be tested for FeLV as early as possible: diarrhoea; pale gums; weight loss or loss of appetite; and breathing difficulty.

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3 kittens
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