Cat alert: fatal disease on the rampage A rare disease among cats is at epidemic proportions in Whistler and Pemberton, area veterinarians say. It’s called "feline infectious peritonitis." It is incurable. It is almost always fatal. "We normally see two cases a year, but we’ve seen seven cases in the past two months and four this week," says Dr. Peter Dobias of the Coast Mountain Veterinary Clinic. Stray cats are being blamed for spreading the disease. Families are advised to keep a close watch on their pets and to keep them indoors. Wild cats such as cougars, bobcats and lynx can carry the disease, too. The virus can survive in the environment for days and is transmitted through oral and respiratory secretions — in a cat fight, say — or faeces and possibly urine. Symptoms are revealed gradually. The cat loses weight, seems depressed, doesn’t eat much. There may be evidence of jaundice, breathing problems, or severe swelling of the stomach area because of fluid build up. It can take a few days for the disease to be obvious, or as long a several weeks or months. There is no treatment, vets say, or a 100 per cent effective vaccine. "We had a client who adopted a stray kitten — an addition to her two other pets," says Dr. Dobias. "Within two months she lost the kitten and one of her other cats. Sadly, her friend’s kitten was also euthenized on the same day." If you are adopting a kitten or cat, or have an outdoor cat, Whistler area vets advise that: o Find out as much history of the stray as you can; o Test all new cats, in multiple-cat households, for the disease and other life-threatening diseases that can be around at the same time; o Vaccinate all cats anyway as a preventive measure; o Call Whistler Animals Galore (WAG) — 932-4499 — if you see a stray or you cat looks sick.