I’ve written about Mama Jewel who has made a marvelous recovery from BobCat Fever. But I’ve had several cat people ask me what it is, so I thought I’d take today’s Cat Tales to give a bit more information about this disease which is spreading north.
Bobcat Fever is an infectious disease caused by the protozoan parasite, Cytauxzoon felis. Since bobcats are the natural hosts of C felis, that’s why it gets its name. A tick, usually Lone Star Ticks (nasty little suckers), bites a bobcat and the tick then transfers the parasite, which looks like a little ruby gem in a blood cell under the microscope, to a house cat.
Humans can be intermediate hosts. In other words, a tick that has bitten a bobcat and is carrying the parasite can come inside on a person and then meander off to find your house cat. How do I know? Because two years ago my mom’s cat came down with this disease and she’s never been anything but the pampered house Queen she still is.
She survived. Mama J also survived, which means we’re pretty lucky because the disease has about a 45-65% survival rate. Once the vet gets imune system boosters and antiboitics on board, comfort care is of the utmost importance. With Mama J, I gave sub-q fluids up to twice a day, syringe fed her five to seven times a day for well over a month, and basically made sure she got the nutrition she needed to support her body to let the meds do their work. Mama J also got a new combination of azythromyacin (or the icky cherry stuff) and doxycycline, which has been shown to help. (Mom’s cat got doxy with bactrin I believe. No icky pink cherry stuff.)
Bobcats live in the Ozarks. I haven’t seen one on my property, though one night I came home and swore I heard an angry big cat cry coming from our woods (could have been mountain lion which we also have, though I’ve never seen), and I’ve seen bobcats crossing the road about an hour away. Also, while the disease is pretty devastating to house cats with their smaller mass, bobcats often do survive and live with the disease and now there’s thought that house cats may be asymptomatic carriers as well.
Mama J did live outdoors for we don’t know how long. And she got pretty stressed when I moved her into the house (she hates the stoopid boy kittiez) so it’s possible she’d been carrying the disease and doing reasonably okay, but the stress of the change in location brought it out.
If you live pretty much south of a KC-St.Louis line, and you know you have Lone Star Ticks in your area. Keep an eye out. The symptoms mirror that of a cold. Lethargic. Not wanting company. Hiding. Not eating. Not drinking. Often runny eyes and noses. In Mama J’s case, I literally didn’t know if she was just depressed or on her way out. Turns out, we caught it and changed the course just in time.