By Amber Polo – 

Volunteers are priceless! To twenty-four kittens, five Verde Valley Humane Society (VVHS) volunteers were lifesavers.

When the VVHS was faced with an outbreak of ringworm in their shelter kittens, volunteers Penny Mullen, Cindy Spicer, Jackie Hayes, Anne Albright, and Memory Russell stepped up and took over the care of kittens with ringworm and those exposed.

Feline ringworm (feline dermatophytosis) is not worms. It’s a fungal infection that affects cats, dogs, rodents, rabbits, birds, and other species. Humans are also at risk.

Animals, like people, get infected through touching an infected animal’s skin or hair, or by touching things that are infected with the fungus, like blankets and towels. It appears as circular areas of hair loss, scaly and crusty skin, and inflammation.

Parasites create spores capable of developing into new microorganisms. Ringworm has a very long incubation period – up to 21 days. Kittens may seem fine, be adopted, and then show signs of ringworm 2-3 weeks later. There is no vaccine, and it is costly for shelters due to the amount of staff time needed to treat the condition. The affected cats were isolated from other shelter animals, staff, and volunteers. The special volunteer team wore protective gear while handling and bathing the kittens and followed protocols.

Volunteers Bathed Up To 15 Cats in One Day

From mid-October until early December, volunteers bathed cats, up to 15 a day. Not all started treatment at the same time, and the number bathed daily varied.

1. Put on protective clothing
2. Take cat into small warm bathing room
3. Bathe and soak cat in medicated shampoo
4. Wait ten minutes, keep wet cat warm
5. Rinse cat
6. Dry cat

Besides baths, each cat required daily doses of oral antifungal medication. Each needed to be weighed daily and progress charted once a day for 3 months.

While the cats were in an isolation area, the volunteers cleaned and sanitized the cat room with fungus-killing disinfectants. All the cat trees and toys that could not be completely sanitized were discarded. The volunteers purchased and installed new trees for the room.

Each cat was checked for spores with a Wood’s lamp ultraviolet light which revealed remaining fungus-coated hair as glowing yellow-green. Spore-free cats were released into the pristine cat room. There they waited for spaying, neutering, and new homes.

Tacy Pastor, VVHS Executive Director, says “There is no way we could have done this without these volunteers. They are the reason these felines got the correct and timely treatment and recovered.”

The passionate volunteers became familiar with each kitten and hoped that each one would find the best home. Volunteer Cindy Spicer adopted two of the kittens who had been the weakest.

Lucky adopters got very special well-socialized cats used to baths and nail trimming. And the five volunteers became special friends, dedicated to helping the Verde Valley Humane Society.