Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Rabid cat attacks point to problems at feral colonies?

From American Bird Conservancy:

The Orlando Sentinel newspaper and other Florida media are reporting two incidents of rabid feral cats attacking humans. WFTV in Orlando, Fla., describes both attacks as unprovoked.

In a March incident, a feral cat was struck by a car, and when the driver and passenger attempted to aid the cat, they were bitten by the rabid animal. In a second incident, on April 12, a rabid cat entered a home through an open door and attacked and bit the owner.

The three bitten people were treated for rabies and are recovering. Both cats tested positive for rabies. As a result, a 60-day rabies alert was issued for Port Orange and South Daytona, Florida.

According to the WFTV broadcast: “The health department’s theory is the disease could be spreading at feeding areas. People have set up shelters to feed cat colonies, but raccoons will finish off the food and may be spreading rabies to the cats.”

“This is certainly not the first, nor will it be the last time that we see the serious public health impacts of feral cats and so-called ‘managed’ cat colonies, "said George Fenwick, president of American Bird Conservancy. "Rabies is not the only disease at issue here. Feral cats can also carry toxoplasmosis, cat scratch fever, and other potentially serious infectious diseases that can affect humans. Despite the best of intentions, feral cat colonies present an ongoing hazard to human health in communities where they are established as well as birds and other native wildlife.”

According to ABC, feral cat colony programs do not protect local wildlife from cats, and they are an ineffective and inhumane way of dealing with the feral cat problem. Allowing hundreds of very efficient predators to exist in a local environment that historically evolved without them will unquestionably and dramatically, over time, alter the balance of the local ecosystem. This change occurs because cats kill not only birds – perhaps one million birds or more EACH DAY in this country – but a variety of small mammals and wildlife.

The feral cats themselves also face the prospect of very unpleasant deaths from predators, disease and automobiles. As a result, feral cats have about one-third to one-fifth of the life span of indoor, owned cats.
To watch a discussion between the WildBird editor and the Cat Fancy editor about outdoor cats - both pets and feral animals - and their effect on wild birds, click here.

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