The Animal Doctor by Dr. Michael W. Fox

Stopping the Extinction Bio-Apocalypse

DEAR READERS: The predicted extinction crisis is now being confirmed by scientists around the world. There are documented precipitous declines in the numbers and known species of insects, amphibians, reptiles, fish and birds in more “dead spots” around the world, while biodiversity hot spots, notably America’s national parks, are threatened by invasive species.

President Trump seeking to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement is a step back from what is needed at this time in our biological history. The establishment of a United Environmental Nations is called for: a collaborative organization that can resist being paralyzed by party politics; subverted by the corrupting forces of fear, greed, ignorance and denial; and not be divided by wars over natural resources or overwhelmed by the heartbreaking burden of political, economic and environmental refugees.

As a veterinarian and biologist, I see the current politicization of environmental and animal protection issues, and the denial of climate change, as protecting vested interests that have no place in a democracy -- or in any society concerned with the long-term health and quality of life for all. Socialism and capitalism make poor bedfellows, but the challenge of democracy is to live with both to help ensure the common good. Our capacity to become fully human is limited when respect for all life is lacking, and when compassion is just a noun and not a word of action and virtue.

INVASIVE SPECIES IN NATIONAL PARKS

Rats, feral hogs and other non-native animals are making themselves at home in America’s national parks, to the detriment of native wildlife and plants, according to research published in the journal Biological Invasions.

The report’s authors call for a coordinated, system-wide approach to managing invasive species; the approach would include visitors, park neighbors, National Park Service leaders and everyone in between. (CNN, Dec. 4)

DEAR DR. FOX: I know an elderly lady with a huge feral cat problem and, sadly, no way or means to control it.

I’ve just heard about a cat birth control product -- a powder to put in their food -- called FeralStat, which contains Nonovulin (megestrol acetate) and lactose. It is a synthetic progestin and approved by the FDA. Is it available through veterinarians? It appears the developer has passed away, and I have been unable to find any current information on the product.

I hope you can help locate availability of this, as it could end the overpopulation of cats that cannot be caught, and stop the disease, starvation and death of the poor creatures. -- M.A.W., Medford, Oregon

DEAR M.A.W.: I appreciate your concern. Indeed, there are countless numbers of people who put food out for cats which then, if not neutered, multiply -- creating a big problem for neighbors, wildlife and the cats and kittens themselves, who may be in need of veterinary care and are too fearful to be caught for treatment.

Such misguided altruism can go one step further into the psycho-pathology of animal hoarding when people lure cats into their homes, where they continue to multiply until local health authorities, police and animal protection agents intervene.

The product you describe, megestrol acetate, could be supplied by a veterinarian, but my concerns are many. First, getting the right oral dose for each female cat would call for separate feeding stations and careful monitoring. Another concern is that the cats are still out there, probably killing wildlife, even if they are well fed and the females are on this medicine and not reproducing. Cats are super-predators and can live for several years, their impact on local wildlife often being devastating.

For details on this hormone treatment, which I would only endorse as a last resort in low- to zero-wildlife areas -- such as some urban housing, warehouses and developing communities -- visit birthcontrolforcats.com.

At this very moment of writing to you, on the winter solstice, we have yet another stray cat on our deck: a very large and handsome black “panther,” who has set off alarm calls by the squirrels. He is taking a nap, eyeing our dog and rescued cat Fanny through the sliding glass door after consuming a lot of food we just put out for him.

Our next step with him, as with nearly a dozen other cats, will be to catch him and take him to the local veterinary hospital to be tested for feline immunodeficiency disease and feline viral leukemia. If he tests negative, he will be neutered, dewormed, checked for fleas and given anti-rabies vaccinations. Then we will put him in a large cage in our living area with a bed, litter box, food and water; with time, he will most likely become another very affectionate and adoptable in-home companion.

It is amazing how all of the cats we have rescued, and whom animal shelter “experts” would deem feral and unadoptable, can be “reprogrammed” to enjoy life indoors, with some being more amenable to being picked up than others. Not all are “cuddle-pusses,” but none have ever tried to get back outdoors to roam and hunt once they feel secure and are well fed under our roof!

(Send all mail to animaldocfox@gmail.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)