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Monday, October 20, 2008

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

So I get a call at McDruggies's and a lady wants to know if the rash she has is from her cat. She is elderly and has a "feral" rescued cat that she keeps in her house and has had for a long time. It lets her pet it when it feels like letting her pet it. Other than that she is the "food giver" and "poo box cleaner" in the one-sided relationship. She said sometimes the cat likes to sleep with her on the bed and lounge on the couch. So I ask for more details about the rash.

She has a lot of swelling from the knees down and on her arms. It started this morning and is getting worse. She also has a lot of itching and some "spots" on her upper arms and a couple of "spots" on her face. I ask for more details.

It turns out she was going to be a sort of half-way house and that another "rescue" cat had been left with her two days ago and the rescue worker told her to take a towel and rub the new cat then rub her cat so they would recognize each other's scent. One teeny tiny problem.....the new cat has ringworm (a fungal infection of the skin) that no one told her about. This means that the resident cat has been thoroughly rubbed with the towel from the new cat with the skin infection. You know what happened next...

The last two days played like an outbreak movie in motion where the infected kitty and resident-now-infected kitty have rubbed against the lady's legs and arms from where she wrangled them to put antibiotic ointment around where they had scratched their ears raw. She then took two showers to try and soothe the rash, which makes the skin dry and makes the rash more irritating. The new kitty had gone to another half-way house.

At the point in the evening when I talked to her the new kitty was at a different home and may be coming back to her in a couple of days. I told her to call them in the morning and tell them "No." She now has to treat her infected "feral" cat, treat herself and do some significant cleaning everywhere infected cats have rubbed. That will be a daunting task because my cats are not "feral" and they are on e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g in the house.

Her next few days will involve a trip to the vet with an angry kitty, a trip to the drugstore/urgent care for her, and a lot of itching. I would rather be in pain than itch and there is only so much OTC products can do. After I talked to her a few times over the course of the evening to reassure her that it is a treatable condition I suffered some psychosomatic empathy itching.

The moral to the story is when taking in "rescue" animals, be sure to ask if there are any medical problems the animal may need treated. Have a vet give all necessary vaccinations, check for ringworm/heartworm/etc., and look for signs of skin infection, parasites, or open wounds. It is also a very good idea not to introduce your pet to a rescue animal without isolating the new animal for at least 48 hours to make sure it does not have anything that could pose a health threat to you or your pet.

Isolation is especially important with birds. They can carry many different respiratory illnesses and parasites that readily jump from bird to bird. When birds get sick they stop eating which leads to dangerous drops in body weight. Birds are like newborn humans, when things go bad they go bad fast and can easily be fatal.

Following these precautions can lead to a very rewarding new addition to your animal family. I know I love each of my little ani-pals like they were my own babies and wouldn't give them up for the world! ....an NO, I am not an animal horder. I have 2 cats that roam the house like they own it and 5 small birds that live in a large metal aviary (mainly to avoid becoming kitty treats). Happy adopting!


Carol said...

I know some peopl ewho take in rescue kitties. They have a separate room that the rescue gets put in until thoroughly checked ou tby the vet. The room is not carpeted and easily cleanable in case of problems liek the ringworm one you mention. Argh. What a job that lady has.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more. Quarantine is important. I frequent Yahoo! Answers in both the cat and dog section. Someone suggested bringing in all the stray black cats for Halloween. (There is an urban legend that people torture and sacrifice black cats, so teenagers decide to... pardon the pun... copycat this urban legend.) I just laughed. Rabies. Scabies. Ringworm. Kitty AIDS. Which one would you like to expose yourself and your cats to this year?

5th year pharmacy student and animal lover