New Paper 20090206: Speculation and Sensationalism on the Seletar Cats

This is the first follow-up to the 45 dead cats in body bags found in Seletar (click on it for full chronology). I agree with Dawn’s views, which is why I am not using the article title the new paper used in the blog post title.

I reiterate that “Cat Aids”, or more correctly, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), is no more transmittable to people, nor cats for that matter, than “Human Aids”. Aids, whether human or feline, has been proven to be, and remains, a disease of stigma and fear.

While clues seem to be emerging that this case may not be that of animal cruelty, it still does not warrant wild guesses on what caused the 45 cats’ deaths. I am especially perturbed that the article had quotes from a vet (who requested anonymity) painting “Cat Aids” as the likely nightmare, even though FIV does not work in the way that the vet and the people who want to believe as the cause, are contorting it to “work”. Whatever happened to responsible journalism?

Incidentally, during this period I had also received a sms from someone who put forth her “theory” on the case, and again “Cat Aids” was fingered. It was clear to me, her message was just going to stoke the frenzy to even greater heights. As a minion to past and present FIV/FELV positive cats, I cannot condone the stigmatisation the sms promoted. So I chose not to respond to the originator and I certainly did not waste my time or sms quota to help her spread her message of confuzzlement. Whatever happened to personal and social responsibility?

Here’s Dawn’s words on it:

Friday, February 6, 2009

More speculation on the Seletar Cats

When I saw the headline to this article, I groaned – unfortunately there are already people in this article talking about how the cats’ remains must be disposed of in the same manner in which birds culled after avian flu are taken care of. Of course, the fact that these cats are highly unlikely to have anything that is contagious to people was not mentioned. Neither is the fact that FIV, or as it is colourfully referred to in the paper, “Cat Aids”, is not in transmissible to people.

Posted by Dawn at 6:16 AM

Click on the blog post title to read the discussion, which I find interesting. Below is the article itself

The Electric New Paper :

LATEST: What killed cats found buried at Seletar? Autopsy result is inconclusive.
But could they have died from…

A cat version of Aids?

THE autopsy on the cats found buried in Seletar Estate has shed no light on how they died.

By Teh Jen Lee

06 February 2009

THE autopsy on the cats found buried in Seletar Estate has shed no light on how they died.

The Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) had sent 10 carcasses to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority’s (AVA) plant and animal health lab last Friday.

These were part of the 45 that were found buried in various holes along Seletar Road.

The SPCA was told that the carcasses were too decomposed for the lab to run toxicology tests to establish if the cats were poisoned.

On Tuesday, the final post-mortem report was released by AVA to say that the cause of death is inconclusive.

When contacted about the post-mortem, the police said investigations will still go on.

However, a veterinary surgeon told The New Paper that there are many feline viral diseases that can suddenly kill large numbers of cats.

The most common is cat viral flu. Another illness that reduces a cat’s immunity, although not as common, is feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), the cat version of the Aids virus.

While cats can be vaccinated against viral flu and feline panleucopenia, there is no vaccine against FIV.

‘It is spread among cats only through cat bites, when an infected cat bites deep into one who does not have it and the saliva goes into a moving blood supply,’ said the vet, who has been practising for over 20 years.

A blood test can determine whether a cat has FIV.

However their immune system will be low, so healing takes longer.

Cats with FIV will have to be given good food to keep their low immune system working as well as possible.

They also need to be kept away from sick cats, as it takes the FIV-positive cat much longer to get rid of cat colds and other illnesses.

Cat flu

The vet, who did not want to be named, also said that for the stray population, the most obvious disease is cat flu. The symptoms are runny nose, fever, and loss of appetite.

It is not usually fatal in previously healthy adult cats, but it can be fatal in kittens and older cats whose immune system is compromised.

It spreads from cat to cat contact and with contact from the discharge from the nose and eyes.

It can also spread from the cat sneezing much the same way a cold is spread in humans. Cat flu cannot be spread to humans.

Another common illness is feline panleucopenia, commonly known as feline distemper. It is primarily spread through contact with an infected cat’s body fluids, faeces, or fleas.

Sometimes it is spread through contact with bedding, food dishes, or even by handlers of infected cats.

The virus primarily attacks the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, causing internal ulcers.

This results in profuse and usually bloody diarrhoea, severe dehydration, malnutrition, anaemia, and often death. The mortality rate is 60 to 90 per cent.

The virus causes a decrease in the cat’s white blood cells, thus compromising its immune system.

Mass burial

The mass burial of cats has caused quite a stir. There are a couple of houses near the burial sites that keep cats. One house has at least 30 cats.

The resident did not want to be interviewed, saying in Mandarin that she has already spoken to the police.

Another resident, Madam Christine Moonesingha, 68, a retiree, has been keeping a cat for the past 17 years.

She said: ‘I’m not alone in my love of cats. There is a mother and daughter who walk around here every morning at 6.30am to feed stray cats.’

The residents are also concerned that they may have been exposed to something hazardous because the carcasses had been rotting along a frequently used path.

Three days to remove carcasses

The New Paper had reported that it took three days for the bags containing the carcasses to be collected by the waste collectors.

One resident, who was passing by the bodies on Monday night, said: ‘The bodies of the cats should have been handled as seriously as they handle the chickens when they are culled to prevent bird flu from spreading.

‘Forty-five decomposing bodies is a lot. Imagine all the germs spreading in the air.’

Meanwhile, SPCA executive officer Deirdre Moss said she was disappointed that the cause of death can’t be established.

She said: ‘Now more than ever we are dependent on people coming forward who may have concrete clues on how the cats died and who buried them there.

‘If you saw something, please come forward.’

Those with information can call SPCA at 6287 5355 extension 9.

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One response to “New Paper 20090206: Speculation and Sensationalism on the Seletar Cats

  1. Melody Stanlin

    I’d like to thank you for discussing this important topic, and I’d also like to contribute to the discussion.

    FIV has absolutely nothing to do with the AIDS virus humans get. They are entirely different viruses, and anyone who suggests otherwise is not well-informed. I’ve seen seem some real tragedies, specifically people being driven to panic and euthanizing cats because they feared the animals could give them AIDS.

    My own cat was gravely ill and diagnosed with FIV, and my vet assured me there were NO treatment options. He also implied that FIV could post a threat to humans. I’m glad I didn’t listen to him. I connected with Thomas Hapka of and discovered that many holistic practitioners are employing natural strategies to help cats with FIV, and the results are extremely encouraging.

    My own FIV+ cat made a dramatic recovery and he’s still with me… going on five years now.

    I would recommend “Feline AIDS: A Pet Owner’s Guide” to anyone with an FIV+ cat, and I encourage pet owners to do their research before putting a cherished pet to sleep.