Cats who are always kept indoors rarely, if ever, suffer physical injuries/wounds or get fleas and develop associated flea-bite allergies.
These health issues can be costly in terms of cats’ quality of life and cat owners’ time and money. In the U.K. -- where cats are commonly allowed outdoors, and sustain injuries from fights and vehicular traffic -- “wounds” are the most common cause for insurance claims for medical treatment of cats.
In the U.S., the most common allergy treated in cats is flea-bite allergy, with a 67-percent increase being reported over the past decade. Fleas are the most common external parasite seen on patients, according to the 2018 Banfield State of Pet Health report. Fleas can transmit zoonotic diseases such as plague, putting family members at risk; anti-flea drugs, meanwhile, put cats at risk, and possibly family members who come in contact with externally applied treatments.
In both countries, and most others, it is a culturally accepted tradition to allow cats to roam free, as many cat owners believe that an indoor-outdoor life is best for their cats’ satisfaction of behavioral needs and quality of life. Many such cats bring home dead and live prey, which is also accepted as natural predation, but in many communities has a negative impact on biodiversity and small mammal and songbird populations.
Surely it is time for the veterinary profession to move forward and support municipal ordinances prohibiting cat owners who live in high-density suburban communities -- and especially rural communities where wildlife is at risk -- from allowing their cats off their property. Similar ordinances are in place for responsible dog ownership. The Florida panther is at risk of extinction in part because of viral diseases from domestic cats, who can also infect lynx and bobcats.
Concerted efforts to provide cat owners with the information needed to help their cats adapt to, and enjoy, life as indoor-only animals is called for, regardless of the potential for alienating some clients. We must also advise against declawing (onychectomy), which is an all-too-common practice in North America.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have been heartbroken since the end of June, when I discovered large lumps on my cat’s neck. It seemed like they developed almost overnight, as I regularly snuggled with my darling cat, Julius.
I had taken him for his yearly checkup not long before this, and the vet gave him a perfect report, including bloodwork. About two weeks later, I found the lumps.
His previous appointment had been in November, when I had taken him to the same veterinarian facility. The vet I saw that day insisted I purchase the Seresta flea collar for him. The collar was put on, and we went home. After a few weeks, I noticed scablike places underneath the collar. I called the vet, and was advised to remove the collar, apply an over-the-counter antibiotic cream to the area, and bring the collar back for a refund, which I did.
When I found the lumps this summer, I asked if the collar may have caused them. Of course, I was told it was unlikely. After reading your blog, I found the story of the poor dog owners who lost two healthy dogs to lymphoma shortly after getting the collars for them -- lymphoma was what my cat had after using the collar.
If only I could go back and follow my instincts, and simply say NO! It makes me sick to think Julius would still be here if I had done that, but I trusted the vet. Last time for that!
Please spread the info and tell pet lovers not to use Seresta brand products! You have my permission to use my name concerning this. Maybe Julius can save other pets and their owners some of the grief and heartbreak I am still trying to get through. -- A.H., Pittsville, Maryland
DEAR A.H.: I am indeed so sorry about the demise of your beloved cat. You should feel no blame, and the veterinarian involved should inform the manufacturer and the government about the adverse reactions -- first the skin lesions and then the lymphoma.
While the chemicals in the collar may not have directly triggered the cancer, they could have impaired immune and other cell-regulation systems to precipitate the cancer.
I would like to hear from other readers whose dogs and cats have had adverse reactions to the various anti-flea and tick products provided by veterinarians and sold over the counter, and urge all readers to visit my website (drfoxvet.net) for my latest review article on this issue, entitled “Companion Animal Risks of Flea and Tick Insecticides.” I consider this one of the most serious companion animal health concerns not yet widely recognized by many veterinarians.
A BOOK FOR ALL WHO CARE
Book review: “Rescuing Ladybugs: Inspirational Encounters With Animals That Changed the World” by Jennifer Skiff. New World Library, 2018.
The rising public anguish over the state of the natural world, the suffering of our own kind and of other fellow creatures is informed and affirmed by the many voices in this exceptional book. “Rescuing Ladybugs” is a clarion call to awaken our empathy, ignite compassionate action and help recover our humanity in these dystopian times.
It should be required reading for all high school students, and will inspire all who care and have communion with other sentient beings. Do visit the author’s website: jenniferskiff.com
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org 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 DrFoxVet.net.)