Beware of feline illnesses before adopting a cat

It is kitten birthing season and you may be considering adopting one. If so, that’s good, but be careful that your new kitten doesn’t have an upper respiratory infection (URI). URIs are common in cats from shelters and catteries. It also can easily spread to cats you already have and make them extremely ill. I learned about URIs recently when I volunteered for a local cat rescue group and one of my own cats became ill.

In early January, I started working with the group, which had an adoption partnership with a Murrieta pet store. During the three months that I volunteered at the pet store, I noticed that many of the group’s cats had eye and nasal discharge and sneezed.

I asked the group’s leader why the cats were having such symptoms. She told me that rescue cats get “small, little kitty colds” and assured me that the cats would be fine. I didn’t realize it at the time that these cats actually had symptoms of URIs and it was more serious than she claimed.

I became a foster caregiver for one of the group’s female kittens in March. Each day I had to wipe discharge from her eyes and nose, but thought the discharge would eventually stop. The kitten appeared healthy and had come to me directly from the group leader’s home after being there for several months.

On April 14, I went to the pet store and brought home one of the group’s male kittens to foster and possibly adopt. He also had eye and nasal discharge and frequently sneezed. I assumed he had a cold that he’d soon get over.

About a week later, I noticed that one of my own cats was ill. I have two indoor cats, Chloe and Phoebe, who are about 9-years-old. I immediately took Chloe to our veterinarian who diagnosed her with an URI. The doctor said that Chloe more than likely caught it from the foster cats and said that my other cat Phoebe probably has a stronger immune system so she didn’t become ill, too. The doctor also clarified that there’s no such thing as “small, little kitty colds” and sneezing is a sure sign of an URI.

I was shocked by what I learned from the doctor. I returned the foster cats to the pet store, disinfected my home, and notified the group’s leader by email that the foster cats had made Chloe ill. I informed her that all of the cats at the pet store needed medical treatment for URIs. I also reported the situation to the pet store’s management and Animal Friends of the Valleys.

The group’s leader emailed me back and claimed that my cat Chloe had infected the group’s cats. She didn’t want to take responsibility for letting the illness fester and spread in the cats. Of course, I’m no longer associated with the group. The pet store also ended its partnership with the group on

April 24.

Thankfully, Chloe responded well to treatment and is feeling better, but it will take weeks for her to fully recover. I spent almost $1,000 on her medical bills. So beware of URIs if you intend to adopt a kitten, especially if you already have a cat.

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