Feline diseases up, veterinarian warns

Published 6:00 am Thursday, January 10, 2002

Pet owners are being urged to have their feline friendsvaccinated and kept under close watch due to stray cats carryingdeadly feline diseases.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus and Feline Leukemia still continueto be heartbreaking problems for pet owners in the area, accordingto Dr. Bob Watson, who has seen several cases recently.

“This is something the public needs to be aware of,” he said.”We have a large population, as many communities do, in Lincoln andCopiah Counties of feral (wild) cats, and they can spread thedisease to the pet cats.”

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Wesson resident Debbie Box has witnessed the effects of thedebilitating diseases and hopes she can work with other concernedcitizens to help decrease the spread.

“We’ve had seven cats within the last year to die in this area,”she commented. “It’s a terrible, terrible death, and it’s hard on afamily to watch it.”

Three of the cats belonged to her grandchildren, who range inage from seven to 11.

“That has really been tough for my grandchildren. They eachplayed with their kittens, fed them and took care of them,” Boxsaid.

Box’s son, who lives nearby, has also watched two of his catssuffer through the diseases, which are not curable.

“What they have is a hot spot there in Wesson because of thelarge population of feral cats,” Watson said.

The town of Wesson no longer has an animal control officer, butresidents are allowed to catch stray cats and take them to aveterinarian’s office, where they can be tested for thediseases.

Watson said one precautionary measure would be to have catsvaccinated against leukemia. However, a vaccine does not exist forFeline Immunodeficiency Virus.

“It’s also extremely important to have outdoor cats spayed andneutered so they’re not breeding with the wild cats,” Watsonsaid.

The diseases are primarily transmitted through bite wounds andbreeding, factors that can be reduced if cats are spayed orneutered.

“It’s also possible for pet cats to give it to each other justby grooming each other and sharing food bowls, because it’s in thesaliva,” Watson said, explaining how quickly the diseases can bespread throughout a community.

He explains that the diseases have always been present, and anumber of cats die each year after being infected.

Some signs include chronic weight loss, extreme fatigue, poorappetite, vomiting, diarrhea and recurring respiratory and skininfections.

Cats usually die within a year of becoming sick from one of thediseases, but Watson points out that some cats can be infected butnot sick because they are carriers.