Cat adoptions underway in NYC after bird flu outbreak

The catastrophe is over and now these kitties need new homes.

An emergency quarantine shelter for cats exposed to a strain of the H7N2 flu virus is expected to be closed soon, marking the end to an unusual feline health crisis in New York City.

At its peak, the facility in Queens housed about 500 cats. About 400 have been sent to rescue groups and about 30 remain.

It took 480 workers and volunteers from 34 states to care for the cats on a daily basis since the 24,000-square-foot quarantine center was set up at the end of December, according to Tim Rickey, vice president of ASPCA Field Investigations and Response.

“The goal was to give these cats a chance to recover and give them a chance for a new home,” said Rickey, who pointed out that workers had to don head-to-toe protective gear every time they entered rooms to handle the cats.

The ASPCA and nonprofit Maddie’s Fund spent nearly $900,000 to pay for the center — in coordination with the city Health Department and Animal Care Centers of NYC.

Researchers and scientists also used the opportunity to study the virus — first discovered by Dr. Robin Brennen, the ACC medical director, during routine disease surveillance at the animal shelters.

Tests by the University of Wisconsin’s Veterinary Diagnostic Lab showed the virus was a rare strain of avian flu — the first time it had ever spread to domestic cats.

“It’s really been an opportunity for ACC to look at our current protocols and make significant improvements,” Brennen said.

Working with experts, ACC is now using new “progressive” techniques such as giving cats larger cage space.

“Cats gets sick because they get stressed out,” Brennen said. “By allowing them an area to feed separate from where they sleep and go to the bathroom reduces stress in cats and can reduce incidents of disease.”

ACC is also trying to fast track procedures so that adoptable animals spend less time in the shelters.

Cheryl Ludwig, founder of Tabby Town Cat Adoption Center and cat cooperative based near Buffalo, is one of the rescues that stepped up to find homes for the cats.

The Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals transported 10 cats upstate on Monday. Ludwig promised they will get lots of attention and space to roam in the cheery, busy storefront adoption center.

“They will get spoiled rotten once they get here,” Ludwig said.