Plight of the Persians

by Lee Chambers

Persian cats, with their round faces, flat noses and short muzzles, always generate interest when they are brought to Dakin.  The anticipated arrival of not one, but eight Persian cats - five adults and three kittens - created great excitement among staff and volunteers last December 4.

“We had gotten a phone call in advance, which helps us plan the intake and make sure it was orderly,” said Adoption Counselor Betsy Bernard.  The cats arrived in carriers at the Springfield adoption center, showing signs of upper respiratory infection (URI), a highly contagious feline version of the common cold.  Their eyes and noses were runny and they were congested. 

Another problem was suspected, then quickly confirmed; ringworm.  Despite its name, ringworm does not involve a worm.  It’s a fungal infection of the skin that’s highly contagious and transferable not only among animals, but from pet to human as well.  Persians are especially vulnerable to the disease because they tend to be less efficient groomers (due to the shortness of the barbs on their tongues), giving ringworm a chance to take hold.

Dakin’s medical team sprang into action.  Because of their physical condition, the cats were moved immediately into the contagious disease ward.  Any personnel who handled the cats were instructed to wear disposable surgical gowns, masks and gloves, as well as booties over their shoes.  Treatment plans were devised for the cats which would include twice-weekly shampoos followed by a lime Sulphur dip to get rid of the ringworm, as well as several medications to combat the URI.  Volunteers also spent countless hours visiting the cats to provide enrichment and alleviate boredom.

We received five adult Persians (Vern, Rebecca, Maggie, Scarlett and Mr. Clementine) and three kittens (Abner, Alice and Betty).  All of the adults and two of the kittens began recovering.  Their eyes, noses and lungs began to clear up as the URI dissipated.  Sadly, tiny Abner, who always covered his face in his food, and was then groomed by his sister Alice, failed to thrive.  Despite his intense appetite and all of our best efforts, he failed to gain weight and overcome his severe URI.  When no other options were available, we realized that we needed to end his suffering and humanely euthanized him.

Earlier this month the adult cats finally tested negative for ringworm.  The scabs on their skin from ringworm lesions were lessening, and before long they made their way to the adoption floor, then on to new homes.

The kittens are not cured yet.  They are still undergoing treatments (including the shampoo and Sulphur dipping) until they also test negative.  In the meantime, they are being lovingly fostered by a volunteer with veterinary knowledge, and will hopefully be able to go home soon.

“When I first entered animal welfare, I never would have dreamed we’d be able to go to such lengths to save animals,” says Dakin’s Executive Director Carmine DiCenso.  “While these cats had a treatable condition, there were so many other elements that needed to be in place, such as ongoing medical attention, staff coverage and training.  These are things that can strain any organization’s resources.  Not everyone sees what happens to an animal from their admission to Dakin through their adoption day, and there are many stories to tell about the effort and resources needed to enhance or save the lives of animals.  This is a perfect example of one of those great stories.”

The expenses incurred in the treatment of the Persians is significant and ongoing at this time, and several of those moments were captured in the photos below.  As of this writing, the kittens are still battling ringworm and they require medication, special treatment and tests.  Thanks to the generosity of our community, we can go to these lengths when animals need us most.  If you’d like to contribute to the Persian kittens’ ringworm care, you can do so by visiting and giving through our Facebook Fundraiser (, where you can also see updates about the care of these precious cats.

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