Vets warn owners to vaccinate cats after outbreak of deadly virus

Cat owners across Australia are being urged to vaccinate their pets against a rare and potentially deadly virus outbreak.

The highly-contagious feline panleukopenia virus, commonly referred to as feline distemper, has been confirmed in a handful of stray kittens in Victoria, prompting the RSPCA to urge cat owners to keep their pets' vaccinations up to date.

"The virus is not contagious to humans or any other animals, however, it can be spread to other cats through the clothing and shoes of handlers or owners of infected animals," RSPCA Victoria said in a statement on Sunday.

Several kittens in Victoria have been diagnosed with the virus. Source: AAP/File

Australian Veterinary Association President Dr Paula Parker said routine vaccination of cats and kittens had seen the virus become an uncommon disease in recent years.

However, it's important that cat owners remain vigilant with their cat's vaccinations, as the virus can occur anywhere in Australia.

"Vaccination provides high immunity, which is why these recent confirmed cases of panleukopenia are cause for concern - and action," Dr Parker told Yahoo7 in a statement.

The virus is highly contagious, prompting vets to urge owners to get their pets vaccinated. Source: AAP/File

"It typically takes two days for an infected cat or kitten to display signs of the virus, so the risk of transmission is extremely high. Signs include diarrhoea, lethargy, loss of appetite, fever, vomiting and dehydration.

"We suggest all cat owners contact their veterinarian to check the status of their cat's vaccination. Vaccines prevent your cat from becoming ill and help to stop the spread of disease."