TheLorax
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Domestic cats

We all probably learned a long time ago why to keep our cats inside. Cats aren't North American wildlife, they eat North American wildlife while spreading disease. Cats are an introduced species to the continent of North America just like the Norway Rat and English House Sparrow. We can thank the early colonists for the first two introductions. Cats and rats undeniably take an unprecedented toll on our fragile ecosystems. Barring the havoc cats wreak in the environment when allowed to have access to the great outdoors, they also pose serious risks to public health which many people feel uncomfortable discussing because nobody wants to think of their cat as having the potential to be a hard-wired killer.

Here's a new reason to keep cats indoors in the event anyone has a personal friend or a relative not keeping their cats inside-
https://www.uwyo.edu/news/showrelease.asp?id=23719
Fifth Case of Plague Confirmed in Wyoming Mountain Lions

May 21, 2008 -- Mountain lion hunters, domestic cat owners and others who may come in contact with mountain lions in Wyoming and other western states are urged to protect themselves and their animals against plague.

"Plague was confirmed in a mountain lion found dead in mid-April by a landowner in rural Johnson County," said Todd Cornish, an associate professor in the University of Wyoming College of Agriculture's Department of Veterinary Sciences.

Cornish said this is the fifth case of plague confirmed in mountain lions in Wyoming in the past three years. The other four cases were in Teton County and the Greater Yellowstone Area of northwestern Wyoming.

"Plague is an important consideration when mountain lions are found sick or dead in Wyoming and elsewhere in the western United States," Cornish said.

Those who find sick or dead mountain lions or similar species, including bobcats, should avoid contact with the animals and are asked to contact the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD), Cornish said. Contact information for regional offices can be found on the WGFD Web site at https://gf.state.wy.us/admin/regional/index.asp.

"Appropriate personal safety precautions should be taken by wildlife professionals working in the field and diagnosticians working in laboratories when handling these animals or their tissues," he added. Information on how people can protect themselves is available on the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory (WSVL) Web site at https://wyovet.uwyo.edu/Disease_Updates.asp. Click on the following links: 2008, 2006 and 2005.

"Plague is a serious zoonotic disease capable of causing significant illness and even death in humans, as exemplified by a recent fatal case of plague in a wildlife biologist working at Grand Canyon National Park (in Arizona)," Cornish said. A zoonotic disease is one that can be transmitted from animals to humans.

The National Park Service biologist, Eric York, 37, performed a necropsy of a mountain lion carcass last October, and approximately five days later he developed a high temperature, mild nausea, muscle aches, chills, a cough and streaks of blood in his saliva, according to an article in the April edition of the Newsletter of the Wildlife Disease Association (WDA). York died several days later, and specimens from the biologist and the mountain lion both tested positive for the bacterium that causes plague, Yersinia pestis, according to the WDA article.

Wildlife biologists, wildlife veterinarians, public health officials, hunters skinning an animal with plague and the owners of domestic cats stricken with the disease are among those susceptible to plague. Cats can contract plague by eating an infected rodent or by being bitten by fleas from an infected host.

Cornish said, "What's becoming more of a common recommendation is to avoid allowing your cats to hunt wildlife. Concerned cat owners should also consider visiting with their veterinarian about a flea-control program."

There have been one fatal and four non-fatal cases of humans contracting plague in Wyoming since 1978, said Karl Musgrave, state public health veterinarian with the Wyoming Department of Health. There were two cases in Washakie County and one each in Goshen, Laramie and Sheridan counties.

The 1992 Sheridan County case resulted in the death of a man after he contracted the disease when skinning an infected bobcat. The Goshen County case involved a resident of Colorado.

WGFD assistant veterinarian Cynthia Tate said, "Finding plague in animals such as mountain lions and bobcats -- and occasionally domestic cats -- is not surprising because they eat rodents, and rodents are the typical carriers."

Tate added, "Those who hunt or trap predators should protect themselves while skinning animals or handling traps by wearing long rubber or latex gloves. They should avoid contact with an animal that appears sick (rough hair coat and/or drainage out of the eyes) and immediately contact the WGFD."

Tate cautions that animals having plague may not appear sick because the disease can kill rapidly. The incubation period of plague is between two and six days after exposure, she noted. If hunters or others develop flu-like symptoms within that period, they should call their doctor.

Ken Mills, a professor in the UW Department of Veterinary Sciences, said, "Plague could be a risk to mountain lion hunters, but I see it as more of a risk to the owners of domestic cats allowed to go outside and hunt rodents."

There have been at least seven unrelated cases of plague in domestic cats in Wyoming since 2005, Mills said. They included four in Laramie County and one each in Albany, Natrona and Teton counties.

"If your cat develops a fever and has swollen lymph nodes, it is definitely time to call a veterinarian," he said.

Posted on Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Now think of all the people who practice Trap/Neuter/& Release out there who have entire colonies of feral cats that receive no annual vaccinations for any diseases let alone veterinarian care of any type once these cats are spayed or neutered and released.

cynthia_h
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Good safety recommendations--follow standard infection-control guidelines. I would not only use gloves but a face mask, if I were performing these tasks--plague is carried in two ways. Bubonic plague is carried in blood and lymph; pneumonic plague is carried through the air, like pneumonia. What a tragedy that this man died; plague is now treatable with antibiotics.

The veterinarians in the Bay Area who work with feral rescues to perform spay/neuters ALSO provide rabies shots to the cats. Admittedly, this is not the same as the plague, but it does show some awareness of public health issues in homeless cats.

TNR advocates also keep watch over their colonies and trap kittens as soon as possible so that the kittens can be raised with humans and become domesticated cats, thereby reducing future populations in feral colonies.

Somewhere in the past 25 or so years, I read that the endemic presence of plague is indirectly due to the fires after the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, when many, many rats, mice, and squirrels fled the city. Over the next decades, these populations spread throughout the Southwest and now--obviously--have reached Wyoming.

Will try to find such a reference...

Cynthia H.
El Cerrito, CA
USDA Zone 9, Sunset Zone 17

TheLorax
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It is good that kittens of ferals are placed in homes if they can be caught where hopefully the adopter signs a contract that the animal will be maintained as an indoor pet only.

It is good that if TNR is practiced that at the very least the animal is let loose with a rabies shot. Most unfortunate that I don't know of one TNR operation that routinely re-traps their wards annually to provide boosters let alone other vaccines such as distemper or FeLV. Sad reality is that I don't even know of one TNR organization out there that tests cats being released for diseases such as FIV before releasing them. Seriously, once spayed or neutered and given one lousy rabies shot... the reality is that poor ferals won't receive preventive medicine, wellness exams, vaccinations, or any form of parasite control.

Although it is true that antibiotics can treat a few zoonotic diseases, they can't treat them all and then there is the issue of early detection not to mention getting the public at large to wear gloves and masks when necessary. We're inundated with ferals in my area yet few who are pregnant even understand the need to be wearing gloves at the very minimum when gardening. Right about now; Toxoplasmosis, Leptospirosis, Sporotrichnosis, Hepatitis, Bacillary Angiomatosis, and Giardia are the least of our worries associated with diseases crossing the species barrier from cats. Sorry but that plague scares me and I'm not alone given infectious disease specialists are concerned too.

Many of these diseases are directly related to high population densities of cats as would be associated with feral cat colonies.

I'm a proponent of all caretakers being provided with the space to contain their wards as well as the funds to be able to provide any and all future veterinarian care for them. It's not enough to provide just food and water.

Yes, what a tragedy this man died.

Garden Spider
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Location: Western Washington

I'm a microbiologist with a local public health department. A couple of things to keep in mind: Plague is a very serious and potentially lethal disease--it is also a fairly RARE disease. More people died of influenza in 2007 and 2008 than ever died of plague.

There are very good reasons to keep a cat indoors (I am a big proponent of indoor only cats); but plague is not likely to be what kills someone's pet cat--there are too many other common killers (cars, raccoons, coyotes, legal poisons such as slug baits, antifreeze and rat poisons, to name a few). TNR programs for feral cat colonies are better than nothing. A spayed and neutered feral cat cannot reproduce; the generations for that cat end the day the cat is sterilized. A single rabies shot MAY give more than 3 years of protection against rabies. (Some veterinarians are advocating for vaccinating less often for rabies in dogs and especially in cats).

If you have a pet cat, keep it indoors. Be vigilant about flea control. Practice rodent control around your house--this includes discouraging cute rodents such as squirrels, ground squirrels and chipmunks around your house (all rodents have fleas that can carry plague). If you find a dead animal in your yard, do NOT handle it with bare hands! Put on disposable gloves, and use a shovel or some other tool to scoop it into a plastic bag, before discarding it in the trash (you can call your state or local health department regarding testing for rabies, plague or other diseases).

I'm not blowing off the danger; plague IS a danger. But it's also a rare danger. My dogs are more likely to come into contact with Leptospirosis than plague; several local dogs have died from Leptospirosis, caught from raccoons. I'm more likely to catch flu riding the bus to work, than I am to catch plague from the local feral cats (we have at least 2 colonies in my neighborhood).

Hope this puts things into perspective.
Barb and the Two Furry Speedbumps

TheLorax
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TNR programs for feral cat colonies are better than nothing.
I disagree with this statement and am part of a growing number who are vehemently opposed to the existence of feral cat colonies. I guess the question I would have to ask would be, feral cat colonies are better than nothing for whom? Certainly not public health, certainly not North American wildlife, and most certainly not the cat itself that has been released.

What's the average lifespan of a feral cat? Seven years, eight? We've long known a single rabies shot can afford protection longer than a year but what about the remaining years of a feral cat's life? There's a particularly virulent strain of rabies out east right now. And what about all the other annual vaccines ferals won't be getting? Thoughts of distemper are coming to mind for me and Lord knows there are enough mutated strains of that floating around that are being transmitted from cat to wildlife and back again. Although an altered cat can no longer reproduce, it is still more than capable of negatively impacting the local flora and fauna and continues to pose an unnecessary threat to public health and mistakes happen all the time or FCC "advocates" wouldn't be out there trying to keep vigilant "watch over their colonies and trap kittens as soon as possible so that the kittens can be raised with humans and become domesticated cats, thereby reducing future populations in feral colonies". I am convinced the only thing reducing future populations of feral cat colonies is all the people on neighboring properties destroying them as well as public health departments committed to reducing the numbers of stray and feral cats.

Personally, I think its unconscionable that people believe it's ok to be a feral cat landlord given their animals are exposed to atrocities briefly outlined by another member (cars, raccoons, coyotes, legal poisons such as slug baits, antifreeze and rat poisons, to name a few). So what type of medical care does a feral receive when it suffers from frostbite, when it's left partially maimed by some kid with a bow and arrow using it as target practice, or when some stray dog chases it down and rips it apart? What about jaw traps where some cats gnaw off an extremity to free themselves? What about poisons strategically put out by residents in an area who are fed up with ferals? Ferals are innocents and I don't believe they should ever be turned back out onto the streets once trapped just because there are few homes willing to take in unsocialized animals. Win win situation would be to house them in open air catteries (enclosed sanctuaries) on private property. Let government agencies monitor these feral cat catteries just as they do a private cattery or a pet shop. Seems fair to me.

Yup, the plague scares me because of the recent appearance of multidrug-resistant strains. I'm not an alarmist, I'm a realist. Although rare, the plague poses an irrefutably significant threat to public health and this is well documented. If it didn't, there wouldn't be a working group out there developing consensus based recommendations for measures to be taken by medical and public health professionals in the event of the unthinkable. Those mountain lions tested positive for Yersinia pestis. Although Xenopsylla cheopis (Rodent Flea) transmits the disease, that flea is found on a lot more than just cute little rodents like squirrels and chipmunks... to include domesticated animals such as the cute little introduced cat. Something to keep in mind- there have been many advances in rapid microbiology resulting in several new diagnostic tests but how many mechanisms of mutation have been found for Y. pestis to date?
Fatality rates would depend on various factors, including time between onset of symptoms and initiation of antibiotics, access to advanced supportive care, and the dose of inhaled bacilli. The fatality rate of patients with pneumonic plague when treatment is delayed more than 24 hours after symptom onset is extremely high.
Assumption of the above being the strain was not multidrug-resistant. Barring that, it's the secondary pneumonic plague associated with the plague that many fear simply because published and ongoing research identifies it is a devastatingly acute infectious disease. We're not talking about H5N1 or its various strains out there. Those are relatively harmless due to low pathogenicity with only a few having been proven to be lethal to birds and humans and to top it off, avian flu kills the host which is an extremely poor evolutionary strategy. Given the broad host range for pneumonic plague, how mobile our society is, and how highly contagious this disease is before humans display symptoms; one has to wonder with all that we know why would we want to encourage TNR unless we're thinking with our hearts. We're talking human to human transmission here via droplets. Think sneezes and coughs. Anyone out there know of a vaccine with proven efficacy for primary pneumonic? It doesn't exist. The fact remains mutations of Y. pestis that are multidrug-resistant are now out there. Once Y. pestis kills off primary vectors, those fleas will move to other hosts. Think millions of stray and feral cats and dogs out there. The capacity for this to lead to yet another pandemic is a very real concern not to be taken lightly. Like I said, "Right about now; Toxoplasmosis, Leptospirosis, Sporotrichnosis, Hepatitis, Bacillary Angiomatosis, and Giardia are the least of our worries associated with diseases crossing the species barrier from cats". My cats are all indoors only and are vetted regularly. Rats are destroyed by us. Stray and feral cats and dogs are removed from my property by animal control and ferals are humanely destroyed. This service is provided for free to all residents. Hate to be so blunt but I'm a proponent of public health and am considerably more concerned about my family, friends, and neighbors than what my dogs or indoor only cats might catch from ferals that could kill them.

Hope this helps add to the previous perspective.

Back to gardening. Need to build up my immune system. I have a friend who claims, "I always tell my nieces about the best way to get a good immune system is to eat lots of dirt and cow manure". He believes we're going to get hit by a pandemic in our lifetime that could very well leave only gardeners, ranchers, septic pumpers, and veterinarians standing. He thinks this is a good thing because it won't cause a nuclear winter.

Garden Spider
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TNR programs for feral cat colonies are better than nothing.
I disagree with this statement and am part of a growing number who are vehemently opposed to the existence of feral cat colonies. I guess the question I would have to ask would be, feral cat colonies are better than nothing for whom? Certainly not public health, certainly not North American wildlife, and most certainly not the cat itself that has been released.
I am also opposed to the existance of feral cat colonies. BUT, where colonies are established, TNR is one way to keep the numbers down. Intact feral cats will continue to breed. If the cats are payed and neutered, the numbers will gradually decrease. What's the alternative--raise taxes to hire more animal control officers to round up all the feral cats, and euthanize them at the shelter? That would certainly be effective--and I'm not entirely against the idea, either--but it is an expensive alternative, and a tough one to sell to the public. There are a lot of feral cats in my neighborhood, thanks to 2 cat collectors. The people no longer live around here, but descendants of their cats do. No, the cats do not live long healthy lives--raccoons, dogs, coyotes, disease, cars, poisons all take their toll. Most feral cats probably do not live to be 7 or 8--a vet in NYC estamated the average life of a feral cat in the city was probably 2 or 3 years. In the country, maybe 5 or so.
Ferals are innocents and I don't believe they should ever be turned back out onto the streets once trapped just because there are few homes willing to take in unsocialized animals. Win win situation would be to house them in open air catteries (enclosed sanctuaries) on private property. Let government agencies monitor these feral cat catteries just as they do a private cattery or a pet shop. Seems fair to me.
The government does a very poor job of monitering pet shops, puppy and kitten mills right now. Most cities and counties provide very little money to the animal shelters they have right now; they aren't likely to take on oversight of private sanctuaries. Privately run shelters are constantly scrounging money from every source they can, and vary from impeccable, to barely better than animal hoarders. The USDA, which currently oversees pet shops and large scale breeding operations (puppy mills) is understaffed, and cannot keep up with the overwhelming task.
Yup, the plague scares me because of the recent appearance of multidrug-resistant strains. I'm not an alarmist, I'm a realist. Although rare, the plague poses an irrefutably significant threat to public health and this is well documented. If it didn't, there wouldn't be a working group out there developing consensus based recommendations for measures to be taken by medical and public health professionals in the event of the unthinkable. Those mountain lions tested positive for Yersinia pestis. Although Xenopsylla cheopis (Rodent Flea) transmits the disease, that flea is found on a lot more than just cute little rodents like squirrels and chipmunks... to include domesticated animals such as the cute little introduced cat. Something to keep in mind- there have been many advances in rapid microbiology resulting in several new diagnostic tests but how many mechanisms of mutation have been found for Y. pestis to date
Plague concerns me--I'm the one who'll be handling it in the event of a bioterrorist attack. If you are really worried about the threat, get hold of whoever your congressmen/women are and tell them to increase the budget for bioterrorism and the Laboratory Response Network! These funds are being reduced, and some budgets entirely eliminated. Our bioterrorist person quit to take another job, and we no longer have the funds to replace her. We can barely keep up with a normal workload--the normal, day-to-day routine work has us stretched thin--a large scale food born outbreak would be extremely difficult for us to manage with our current level of staffing. A bioterrorist attack would be impossible. This is happening in labs all over the country, not just in my lab. Believe me, we in public health are well aware of the risks, the dangers, and just how ineffective we will be, should the worst happen.
Fatality rates would depend on various factors, including time between onset of symptoms and initiation of antibiotics, access to advanced supportive care, and the dose of inhaled bacilli. The fatality rate of patients with pneumonic plague when treatment is delayed more than 24 hours after symptom onset is extremely high
Assumption of the above being the strain was not multidrug-resistant. Barring that, it's the secondary pneumonic plague associated with the plague that many fear simply because published and ongoing research identifies it is a devastatingly acute infectious disease. We're not talking about H5N1 or its various strains out there. Those are relatively harmless due to low pathogenicity with only a few having been proven to be lethal to birds and humans and to top it off, avian flu kills the host which is an extremely poor evolutionary strategy.
I wasn't actually referring to H5N1 ("bird flu"). It will eventually show up here in the US, and my main concern is what effect it will have on wild birds (prairie chickens, sage grouse, wild turkeys, eg) . . . maybe little or none, or it could be devastating. Humans--so far--are not terribly susceptible to it, and human-to-human transmission is extremely rare. That could change one year (and probably will). The influenza viruses I was referring to are the H3N2 and H1N1 viruses that circulate every year. They kill an average of 34,000 to 37,000 people every year in the US (some years more, some years less, depending on what strains are circulating that year). And yes, these common strains of influenza are multi-drug resistant. My point was not that plague isn't a disease to worry about . . . my point is that there are other diseases that kill far more people every year. You are more likely to catch flu than catch plague, and thus your chances of dying from flu are greater than dying from plague--simply because you are less likely to be exposed to plague. My husband has never gotten plague, but he has had several serious bouts of influenza related pneumonia.

If you're going to worry about diseases, worry about the potential for Enterohemorrhagic E. coli in your apple juice or spinach. Worry about the Salmonella in your tomatoes and dog treats, and the Shigella in your bean dip. These diseases occur every day, in every State, and most outbreaks go unnoticed by the general public. All these organisms have multi-drug resistant strains. Worry about the multi-drug resistant strains of TB; there are far more people with MDR-TB than there are with plague. Worry about MRSA (Multi-Resistant Staph Aureus). And--given how mobile are population is, and given how our food is trucked from one end of the country to another, and shipped from one country to another--these threats are very real.
Once Y. pestis kills off primary vectors, those fleas will move to other hosts. Think millions of stray and feral cats and dogs out there. The capacity for this to lead to yet another pandemic is a very real concern not to be taken lightly.
Actually, the fleas move to secondary hosts before the primary host is dead. The reason is that the plague bacillus multiplies in the gut of the flea, causing it to starve to death, and as a result, the flea begins biting everything voraciously, in an effort to get a meal. Yeah, there's a potential for another pandemic. But it's not something that keeps me awake at night. There are other diseases that worry me more. Hepatitis B. TB. Whooping cough. Staph aureus. Strep group A. Enterohemorrhagic E. coli. Typhoid.
Hate to be so blunt but I'm a proponent of public health and am considerably more concerned about my family, friends, and neighbors than what my dogs or indoor only cats might catch from ferals that could kill them.
I've worked in public health for nearly 20 years, mostly in virology and enteric diseases. Plague concerns me, but there are other diseases that are more of a threat to humans, simply because they are more common, and many people don't even think about them anymore. Pertussis (whooping cough) is still a very real, and potentially lethal, threat to children.

If you're concerned about public health, you should be. Many diseases that once were thought to be nearly extinct are coming back, with a vengeance. Pertussis is one. TB is another. Public health departments all over the country are seeing their budgets slashed to the bone. After 9/11, our health department was promised a large increase in federal money to work on bioterrorism. You know how much money we actually got? Enough to hire 1 person and put 3 new locks on the doors. That's it. At the height of the bioterrorism "scare", we got enough money for one tech and 3 locks. And that money has been dwindling ever since, until this year, we have no funds at all. We're supposed to maintain the same level of training and staffing . . . with no money.

This is happening to labs all over the country, as I said before. Naturally occuring plague doesn't scare me. I'm not likely to come into contact with it. Neither, most likely, are you. We need to be prepared, in case of a bioterrorism attack, yes. But we also need to deal with what we have right now. And that alone is stretching health departments to the limit.
Barb and the Two Furry Speedbumps

ahughes798
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Location: wauconda, IL

Quite frankly, I'm more worried about the flu, which kills tens of thousands every year here in the US. EVERY YEAR. How many people did plague kill last year?

And at least the trap/neuter/release people are doing something to reduce the numbers of feral cats.

And the average life-span of a feral cat is 2 years.

Don't get me started on how I feel about people who think Fluffy "just has to go outside."

doccat5
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Location: VA

I am a doctor. I'm also a retired Federal Officer. I personally find debate to be a healthy expression of one's opinion. I do however, expect other individuals to be able to back up their statements with facts and references. Goodness, I'm concerned with numerous statements laid out above especially when the word bioterrorism shows up. I'm familiar with Lorax's. I would however, like it, if GardenSpider would provide sites to clarify and confirm her facts and references cited. I have not been able to substantiate many of the statements and would like to be able to get more information, please.

This is such a complex issue with some many "emotional" trigger buttons that sometimes it's very difficult to have a reasonable discussion without one's feelings getting seriously involved. Unfortunately it seems to be another example of man's insensitivity to a serious issue with other living creatures. sigh

Thank you
doccat5

I'd rather be gardening!

TheLorax
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Joined: Tue Feb 19, 2008 9:40 pm
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Ahughes798- If I die, can I come back and be reincarnated as a feral cat that is trapped, neutered, and released inside your home? You are truly one in a thousand for “releasingâ€



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