Dear Dr. Fox • We recently learned of something called bobcat tick fever (Cytauxzoonosis). Numerous cats have been lost to it. Our neighbors just lost one of their four cats.
We understand that most cats do not survive and that not much can be done to prevent it. Our neighbors are using a powder form of Sevin insecticide on their surviving cats. Is it safe and effective?Our wonderful cat is an indoor/outdoor cat. Since we learned of the fever, we have kept her in the house, but she is not happy about it. Are there any vaccines available? What can we do to help her? — G.M.G., Turners, Mo.
Dear G.M.G. • The disease Cytauxzoonosis is caused by the blood parasite Cytauxzoon, first reported in the United States in 1976. The disease is carried by bobcats and is transmitted by ticks to domestic cats, to which the disease is usually fatal. The parasite is evident in Southern states where this tick thrives, including Texas, Florida and the Carolinas. But with climate change, it is likely to spread to Northern states. It is not transmissible to dogs or humans.
Infected cats require emergency care, including oxygen, intravenous fluids, anticoagulants, whole blood, a nasogastric tube to supply nutrients and oral medications such as atovaqnuoe and azithromycin.
Sevin is a carbaryl-based insecticide that is falling out of favor for garden use, especially because it is highly toxic to bees and there are safer alternatives. Putting it on cats is beyond stupid; Sevin is a far greater health risk than bobcat fever-carrying ticks!
Alternative tick repellents on the market are not 100 percent reliable, and not all are safe for cats, so I see no alternative but to keep cats indoors. Cats used to going outdoors generally adapt better to indoor life when they have a feline companion and climbing trees, cat condos and carpeted window shelves so they can enjoy looking outdoors. Interactive play with them is also important, as is provision of a sturdy scratch post. Some cats adapt well to wearing a harness and enjoy outdoor walks, keeping clear of all bushy areas that may harbor ticks.
Free-roaming and feral house cats who survive this disease may become carriers like the bobcat, one of many rare carnivores suffering loss of habitat and extinction due to human encroachment, trapping and hunting.
Book Review • I do not review many books I receive because they add nothing new for the benefit of animals, or are simply warm and fuzzy sweet nothings. But "Part Wild: One Woman's Journey With a Creature Caught Between the Worlds of Wolves and Dogs" (Scribner) is an exception. The book is author Ceiridwen Terrill's deeply moving and disturbing saga of her dedicated and valiant attempts to share her life with a purpose-bred wolf-dog pup.
www.twobitdog.com/DrFox Write to: Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo. 64106.