Staff at the Moncton SPCA are in mourning after they were forced to put down all of the centre’s cats following an outbreak of a life-threatening viral disease.

The SPCA is using the unfortunate incident to remind pet owners that vaccinations can save lives.

“Although we vaccinate and we clean, sometimes it happens, and unfortunately for us we had a breakout of panleukopenia, and on the advice of the vet we had to euthanize the cats,” says Karen Nelson.

Nine adult cats and one kitten were euthanized due to the outbreak of panleukopenia - a highly contagious virus that affects a cat’s intestinal tract.

“If you are worried about this or see some signs in your cat that they are lethargic, they are not eating, they have diarrhea, things like that that are not normal for your cat, get them into your vet and have them checked,” says Nelson.

Staff are now focusing their attention on cleaning efforts. Nelson says the cleaning process is intensive, as all surfaces need to be scrubbed down with cleaning products, then a chemical agent, followed by steam cleaning. The process is then repeated twice.

All wood products are also being replaced.

Veterinarian Dr. Christina Chong is with the office that had to deliver the bad news. She says the virus is common among unvaccinated cats.

“The reason why it is contagious is the virus can survive outside the animal for a long period of time,” says Chong.

Many community members and businesses in the area have stepped up to help after hearing about the sad circumstances.

Hardware retailer Omer Cormier had just given the SPCA a cheque from a recent fundraiser when he heard about the cats.

“We donated some paint. We thought we should look after her by donating paint that she needs to do up all of her shelter,” says Cormier.

The SPCA is hoping to re-open Friday.

With files from CTV Atlantic's David Bell