The highly contagious virus panleukopenia is doing the rounds in Central Otago, according to several animal welfare groups.
Panleukopenia, also known as panleuk or feline enteritis, is a viral disease that can cause severe vomiting and diarrhoea in cats and kittens.
It attacks the cat’s immune system, leaving it unable to fight infection.
The SPCA’s website states pregnant cats can transmit the disease to their kittens in the womb.
In late pregnancy the kittens can survive, but the virus can damage the part of the brain that controls co-ordination.
This results in a condition called cerebellar hypoplasia, also known as “wobbly kitten syndrome”.
Alexandra SPCA centre manager Shirlene Steel has witnessed both good and bad outcomes in recent months.
kittens found in Alexandra showed signs of panleuk after arriving at the SPCA.
Four died, but four survived, including the “runt of the litter”.
Ms Steel, who was also aware of recent cases of ringworm, said it was a perfect example of why people “must” have their cats vaccinated if they wanted them to be looked after at the SPCA’s cattery.
The condition has been affecting felines for many years, but the number of cases changed from year to year, she said.
“Panleuk has been around forever – it does float through Central [Otago] from time to time.
“Every time it’s been in this area, it tends to be in little pockets, but what I’ve found this particular season [is] it’s been quite widespread.”
She said people could prevent their pets from getting it by making sure their vaccinations were up to date.