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'It's crushing': Fatal virus spreads through cats at Cody animal shelter

Sick cat
Posted at 3:06 PM, Sep 27, 2023

CODY — It's a tough time for cats in Cody, as a deadly virus is spreading through litters of kittens—hitting the animal shelter especially hard.

Feline Infectious Peritonitis, or FIP, is known in the shelter world but is a first for the Park County Animal Shelter, which saw the virus come in from a litter of feral kittens at the end of May.

“As of right now, I know of 22 that have died of FIP," said Amanda Munn, executive director of the Park County Animal Shelter. “It's difficult, especially when we as the first responder and caretaker of the animal, then our personal pets, our personal cats are getting sick. So it's crushing.”

The shelter is enacting a series of protocols to control the spread, including all intakes and direct adoptions of cats. Limited fostering of cats is still available.

“On a day-to-day basis, we do a very thorough cleaning of all the cat apartments, all the cat condos, making sure everything is separated, rags for each room, trash bags for each room, nothing cross contaminates," said Logan Phillips, feline care specialist at the Park County Animal Shelter.

FIP is a type of feline coronavirus that can only move cat to cat, not to humans or other animals.

“I want to just clarify that this is something that should not cause panic. Do not panic," Munn said. "FIP in the shelter world is not something we see very often, but when we do see it, we have protocols and procedures in place for this.”

Once the cat contracts FIP, it is fatal—but scientists in Colorado want to change that. The outbreak in Cody offers a unique opportunity to research the virus, which Munn sees as a silver lining in this difficult situation.

“Our veterinarian reached out to Colorado State University because there is a team of researchers there that work exclusively with FIP cases," Munn said. "They're leading research, they have clinical trials going on right now. And so we're really lucky to be part of that message with them and collaborate with them in this way.”

With a glimmer of hope in research and stringent protocols, the shelter staff is working hard to give every cat and kitten a fighting chance first at health and then at a home.

“Of course as any animal lover, it's difficult to deal with but we keep coming in because even if this is their final place and they unfortunately get FIP, they need to be loved, they need to be cared for no matter the circumstance," Phillips said.

The shelter is in need of help in fighting the FIP outbreak. Munn says monetary donations especially are appreciated, but so is wet cat food and clean blankets.

"It's important right now, since we are operating under disease protocol, everything becomes three times expensive as it was last month. Park County Animal Shelter averages an expense budget of $50,000 to $60,000 per month. So what we're expecting is that to maybe be around the $90,000 to $100,000 mark, it's going to be very expensive," Munn said.