Archive for the ‘Cat Health’ Category

NOW is the Time!

Monday, February 16th, 2009

One of the main objectives of the rescue I work with, Save Our Strays, is our trap-neuter-release program for stray and feral cats. If you aren’t familiar with trap-neuter-return (TNR) - we use humane traps to catch stray and feral cats, take them to a vet to be spayed/neutered, then release them back where they were trapped. This is the ONLY humane and effective way to reduce the overpopulation of stray and feral cats - killing them is inhumane (obviously!) and finding homes for all of them isn’t an option, as many of them are truly like wild animals and are terrified of humans. While feral cats can at times be socialized and become great housepets, this is a very lengthy process that no one has the resources to undertake with so many feral cats out there.

It may not seem like simply sterilizing them is doing much for the well-being of the cats, but it actually improves their quality of life in a number of different ways. Just as with pet cats, sterilization has health benefits - such as removing the risk of cancer in the reproductive organs and greatly reducing the risk of mammary cancer in females. Spaying a female cat also removes her risk of pyometra, a usually fatal uterine infection. Beyond that, sterilizing a cat usually reduces their urge to roam, thereby reducing their risk of being hit by a car, attacked by other animals or hurt by cruel humans. Sterilized cats are less likely to contract deadly diseases like feline leukemia and FIV, since they aren’t mating and usually fight a lot less (also resulting in fewer injuries from fighting!) By sterilizing these cats, we are also removing them from the endless cycle of breeding, which is especially beneficial to the females whose bodies get drained by carrying and nursing litter after litter. By preventing the birth of more kittens, we’re saving those kittens from the hard life of an unwanted cat.

If you have stray/feral cats in your neighborhood, the winter is the best time to undertake a TNR effort. Female cats are less likely to be pregnant or nursing kittens during the winter, so you have less concern about taking a mother from her babies who need her or dealing with the ethical issue of terminating a litter of kittens. If you live in the Cincinnati area, contact Save Our Strays by visiting our website at www.soscinci.org. If you live elsewhere, there is almost certainly a rescue group in your area who can help you - the best way to find one is often to ask your local vet.

If every neighborhood, or to break it down further, each street in a neighborhood, could work together to sterilize the stray cats that hang around their area, we could make a HUGE impact on the overpopulation problem. Let’s work together and get it done!

This Crazy Cat Lady

Don’t Leave Your Feline Friends Out in the Cold!

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

As I write this, the temperature outside is in the single digits and there’s a bunch of snow and ice covering everything. My cats and I are warm and toasty in our house, but I can’t help but think of the cats who live outside this time of year. They may have fur coats, but when it gets this cold, that isn’t much protection.

Some people seem to think that outdoor cats are able to be completely self-sufficient. While cats are amazing little survivors, this isn’t completely true. We removed them from their natural habitat (the desert!) thousands of years ago and domesticated them. Now, they count on us primarily for their survival - even feral cats who don’t seek out human contact eat our garbage and find warmth and shelter in and around our buildings. They need us. Our ancestors made it this way, so I think that it’s only decent if we TRY to fulfill at least their most basic needs.

When the temperature outside drops below freezing, a cat without shelter of some kind to provide a windbreak and hold in some of their body heat CAN freeze to DEATH. This isn’t a pleasant way to die. It isn’t quick, and it is painful. If you consider yourself the caretaker of any cat who lives outside, even if it’s a stray or feral cat, please provide them some sort of shelter. It can be very inexpensive and simple, as I’ll explain.

The most inexpensive and effective cat shelter I’ve found is made using a plastic storage bin like ones made by Rubbermaid. It should be big enough for one cat to fit comfortably inside and should have a tight-fitting lid. Cut a hole big enough for the cat to fit through (but not any bigger than necessary) in one side. From here, you can simply fill it with straw for insulation, or you can go a step further and line the inside with styrofoam as additional insulation. Place it outside near where the cat comes to eat, under an overhang of some kind if possible to provide additional protection from the rain and snow. Viola! You have a cat shelter that in most climates should be able to get a cat through the winter.

If you want to get fancier and have the money to spare, insulated dog houses work well also. Some of them are even heated!

Also important this time of year - add some extra food to the food dish! It takes more calories to keep a body warm in cold temperatures, and some extra body fat helps too.

Remember - spay and neuter! If we didn’t have this overpopulation problem, there wouldn’t be so many cats out in the cold!

Stay warm!

This Crazy Cat Lady

Holy Ringworm, Batman!

Friday, December 5th, 2008

Yes. I uttered the word possibly most-dreaded in a cat rescuer’s vocabulary. Ringworm. We hate it because it spreads. We hate it because it just sounds icky. We hate it because people can catch it too, and nobody wants to have ringworm. Blech.

I believe one of my foster cats at the animal hospital where I work has the hated RW. Which, by the way, isn’t a worm at all, but a fungus. Don’t know if that makes it better or worse, but I think it needs a new name.  FunRing? Maybe we would hate it less if it didn’t sound so gross, but I doubt it.

Poor Scout, a handsome brown tabby cat, just can’t seem to catch a break. He got adopted 2 years ago, but then a couple of weeks ago he found himself back with Save Our Strays when his family had a human baby. A lot of people seem to find having a baby an acceptable reason for getting rid of their pets. Just a sidenote - babies and animals can live quite happily in the same home with a modicum of supervision and some common sense. But I digress.  Scout has been staying at the animal hospital where I work for the past couple of weeks. The first week he spent in complete terror, hiding behind the litter box in his cage and trembling if anyone touched him. The second week he started to settle in and accept his new surroundings - and then today I discover suspicious scaly, crusty patches on his face. The verdict from the vet isn’t in yet, but I’ve seen ringworm a “few” times before, and I’m pretty good at spotting it now. If it is ringworm, Scout will have to endure baths and daily bouts of being smeared with medication that he’s surely not going to enjoy - especially in his current stressed out state.

Sigh. Perhaps worst of all is that this will set back his chances for adoption, since we can’t very well adopt out a cat with ringworm. He’ll have to get better first, which can take weeks. He’ll have to be isolated from other cats, alone in a cage. I just hate it for him.

Often, being a rescuer means dealing with a lot of sickness. These cats come to us from all kinds of situations, where they’ve been exposed to all kinds of things. Currently I’m treating my own cats for giardia, which they picked up from a foster cat of mine. Pills twice a day. I’m treating a couple of my senior cats for upper respiratory infections. Liquid meds and eye drops twice a day. I have two unpleasant holes in my thumb where one of them chomped down on me while vigorously opposing the medicating process, and my arms look like a roadmap of scratches.

Yet, I still love what I do. Yep. Love it. Don’t ever plan to give it up. The rewards are worth catching ringworm and having my doctor ask me if I have a cutting problem (yes, both have happened). It’s even worth cleaning litter boxes twice every single day. And that’s really saying something!

Anti-fungal wishes to all,

This crazy cat lady

Update! Scout *may* not have ringworm! The vet thinks it might be a skin infection, which isn’t exactly great either, but preferable to ringworm in that it’s not so contagious.  He’s still being isolated for now just in case while we see if the antibiotics clear up the lesions.

A bit of education… If a cat in your care is diagnosed with ringworm, the first step is isolating them from any other pets in your home. It’s also best to keep children away from them since it is contagious to humans. Your vet may prescribe a variety of different treatments, from baths to anti-fungal creams to oral medication. It’s important that you follow your vet’s instructions to the letter, since ringworm not treated properly can worsen and make your cat very uncomfortable. To prevent the spread of ringworm to yourself and others in your home, it’s best to keep a smock right inside the door of the isolation area that you can wear while handling the infected cat (disposable latex gloves are a good idea too). Ringworm is spread by spores which are shed by the infected cat, and these can cling to clothing or shoes or human skin. I also buy a cheap pair of slippers that I can wear in the isolation area, then just throw away after the ringworm is gone. As soon as you are finished handling the infected cat, be sure to wash any exposed skin thoroughly with soap and water. Also because of the shedding spores, it’s a good idea to vacuum the isolation area daily if carpeted (and throw away the bag/empty the canister outside your home). If not carpeted, cleaning the isolation area with a 1:10 bleach/water solution daily can kill the spores and prevent their spread. Of course be careful kitty is contained safely away until the bleach-water is totally dry!