WATERVILLE — The cat wing at the Humane Society Waterville Area shelter on Webb Road has been closed temporarily due to the presence of feline calicivirus in some of the cats there, a spokeswoman said Friday.

Malena Gatti, president of the organization’s board of directors, said 11 of the 99 cats at the shelter have confirmed cases of the virus and the shelter team is working to contain the virus and help the cats recover.

Feline calicivirus is a highly contagious virus that causes mild to severe respiratory infection and oral disease in cats, according to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, New York. It is common in shelters and breeding colonies, according to the college, and most cats recover from the virus, although rare strains can be fatal.

Gatti wrote in an email Friday that when shelter officials learned there was an illness among the cats, they decided to self-quarantine, leading to the closure of the feline wing. Officials reached out to the state’s animal welfare veterinary team for guidance, Gatti said.

“We’ve also been working closely with the leadership team at another Maine shelter to compare our policies and ensure that ours are reflective of current best practices,” Gatti wrote in the email. “As always, we continue to be committed to doing everything we can as a staff and as a facility to prevent and effectively contain illnesses if and when they arise.”

Gatti said shelter officials hope to reopen the cat wing to the public in the next couple of weeks, but the priority is ensuring the well-being and recovery of the cats.


She said she could not confirm the number of dogs at the shelter, but said the dog population is healthy.

Rae-Ann Demos, who served until Friday as executive director of the Humane Society Waterville Area, said at a fundraising event in June the nonprofit shelter operates on more than $1 million a year and counts on donations and grants to survive. Many people think the shelter gets state and federal money, but it does not, Demos said.

The shelter had 11 employees at the time, but really needed 15, with Demos doing the jobs of about four people, she said.

Donations of any amount help the operation, she said, adding that people can donate by sending contributions to: Humane Society Waterville Area, 100 Webb Road, Waterville, ME 04901, or donate on the shelter’s website or Facebook page.

The organization’s board of directors said recently that Demos was instrumental in introducing initiatives to improve the work of the organization and the quality of life of animals in the region.

Directors said Demos helped expand low-cost spay and neuter services for the community, helped procure a new vehicle for canine transports, oversaw improvements including the construction of a feline intake room and collaborated on the development of a new feral cat program.

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