How Do Cats Get Feline Distemper?
Feline Distemper, also known as Feline Panleukopenia Virus, is an extremely contagious and life-threatening viral disease in cats. It works by weakening the infected cat’s immune system by attacking white blood cells, causing problems in the intestinal tract, bone marrow, and skin. It mainly affects unvaccinated adult cats and kittens, so the best way to prevent your cat from getting Feline Distemper is through vaccination.
However, if you have a pregnant or immunocompromised cat that can’t receive a Feline Distemper shot, it’s helpful to know the preventative measures you can take to keep them from contracting the virus. To help you do that, here are the top 5 ways your cat can get Feline Distemper and how you can minimize their risk of getting infected.
1. Cat-to-Cat Contact
The most common mode of transmission for Feline Distemper among cats is through direct cat-to-cat contact. That’s because infected cats shed the virus is through bodily fluids, such as saliva and urine. That means other cats can contract the virus if they share things like food bowls, toys, beddings, and litterboxes with the sick cat.
Grooming and biting is another way for infected cats to transmit the Feline Distemper virus. Since it’s also present in their saliva, they can spread it when they lick the fur of other cats or get into catfights.
2. Contact with Contaminated Equipment and Surfaces
Your cat can also contract Feline Distemper if they come into contact with contaminated equipment such as pet brushes, hair clippers, and cages. They can also get the virus from soil, rugs, carpets or any kind of flooring that has touched an infected cat’s feces, urine, vomit, saliva, mucus or blood and haven’t been cleaned properly.
The Feline Distemper virus can stay on equipment and surfaces long after body secretions have faded. In fact, it can survive in the environment without a host for years. It can also withstand freezing temperatures and is mostly resistant to alcohol. To completely rid the objects and surfaces of the virus, you should use a diluted bleach mixture (1 part bleach in 30 parts water). If you’re interested to see our favorite non-liquid bleach products and disinfectants, click here.
3. Human-to-Cat Contact
Yep! You read that right. We can also serve as vehicles for Feline Distemper. If we don’t wash our hands thoroughly after handling an infected cat, or a cat that may possibly have Feline Distemper, we can actually spread the virus around.
It’s very important that you wash your hands with soap and warm water after coming into contact with animals before you touch anything else, especially your cat and their belongings. That will minimize the likelihood of you passing the virus on to them or any other healthy cat.
4. Through Breast Milk or In Utero
Kittens can contract the Feline Distemper virus in utero or from the breast milk of an infected mother cat. Infected kittens usually don’t survive the infection, but if they do, they typically gain permanent immunity from the virus for life.
5. From Insects and Rodents
Since the Feline Distemper virus can pretty much survive in the environment without a host, they can stick to the fur of small outdoor animals like rodents and get carried into new areas. A cat can contract the virus if they come into contact with these animals or the objects and surfaces they’ve touched.
Insects can also play a role in spreading the virus to healthy cats—the most common one being fleas. We’re all familiar with these pesky little parasites, and unsurprisingly, there’s another reason to hate them: they can spread the Feline Distemper virus from one cat to another once they’ve bitten an infected cat.
Make sure to protect your cat from both virus-laden rodents and fleas by keeping them indoors and using monthly preventative flea medications.