So my brother called me the other night pretty shaken up. I guess a few days ago two out of three of his barn cats suffered seizures along with vomiting and loss of bowel control and then quickly died. The next day their 2 year old barn cat suffered the same fate. The first two were 3 months old but for some reason the runt of the same litter and mother survived. I told him that it sounded like distemper, but I am not 100% sure. He is also worried about his 2 house cats that seem unaffected. I read that adult cats can get distemper without symptoms, but could they still be at risk of death? I really feel awful for my brother and his wife. They have had some pretty rough times lately with job losses and unexpected house issues so they (obviously) haven't had the means to properly care for these animals, but the concern is still apparent, and intentions are good. So without the obvious lecture about proper kitten control methods and vaccination precautions, can anyone offer some advice or maybe any other ideas what this might be and should they be worried about their adult house cats as well? Thanks so much guys.
I didn't answer before hoping somebody with more "outdoor" cat knowledge would chime in. Since mine have all been vaccinated indoor kitties and I have never seen distemper symptoms. But from what I understand, distemper is not a "sudden death" kind of thing. And if the indoor cats were not exposed to the others and were not sharing food and water, they should be ok. But honestly...as bad as this sounds...those sound like the symptoms death by poisoning. Whether they got into some pesticide or if somebody deliberately poisoned them, I'd be checking for the source before they get anymore outdoor cats.
Don't know much about distemper, only can tell you what I read from googling. What I read from googling seems to tell me Maxand Allie is likely right about poisening, accidental or otherwise.
Feline distemper has a fatality rate of 50%-90%, symptoms include listlessness, depression, loss of appitite, vomiting, and dirrhea, death by dehydration as symptoms are prolonged for 3-5 days. If a kitten is born to a queen with distemper, which usually results in the abortion of the litter, then it is possible for them to be born with brain damage due to the virus, cause them to 'shake and stagger.' But though feline distemper cans cause seizures, it isn't usually a case of a sudden seizure, then dropping dead, in the same day. Seizures being more of a result of not eating and high fever, from what I am reading anyways. If it is distemper, the virus is hard to kill in the enviroment and can lay dormant outside for years, and it is recommended to just get rid of anything of the cats it may have contacted, food dishes, beds, toys, etc. Also distemper can be passed by direct or indirect contact with the infected cats, and can be transmitted by fleas or humans, as in a person touching and infected cat, then going indoors and petting an indoor cat. So yes an indoor kitty can be at risk.
But based on the symptoms you describe, and my uneducated opinion, I think MaxandAllie is right.
You know, thats exactly what I told my brother when I first heard the symptoms he was describing. I thought it was a poisoning as well. I read later however that a lot of cases of distemper are mistakenly thought to be poisonings because the symptoms can have very quick onset and death can be rapid after the first symptoms are noticed. Especially in younger cats. I just don't know what to tell him. I can't be sure it is distemper, but I'm not convinced its a case of poisoning either since the kittens are very small and don't travel too far from the barn. Even if they did, they would have to go a fair distance being that their closest neighbour is a full 2 acres away. Thanks for your help guys. Maybe someone else has some suggestions as well.