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Pet owners in my home town have recently had a reminder as to why it’s not a good idea to let dogs and cats roam freely and why parasite prevention is so important. Tularemia, a disease caused by infection with Francisella tularensis bacteria, was recently diagnosed in a wild rabbit in the southeast part of Fort Collins. Rabbits in this area have been dying in unusually high numbers over the last few weeks, and until a necropsy on this particular animal was performed, nobody knew why.

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Credit: Thinkstock

Tularemia affects many different species of animals including people, dogs, and cats. Infections can develop in a couple of different ways:

-handling a sick or dead animal that harbors the bacteria
-eating the un- or under-cooked flesh of animals infected with the bacteria, which applies to canine, feline, and human hunters
-through the bites of insects, most commonly ticks or deer flies

RELATED: Top Five Tips for Treating Ear Infections in Dogs and Cats

It is also possible to develop tularemia after eating or drinking contaminated food or water or by breathing in airborne bacteria, but these routes of transmission are less common than those mentioned above.

The Department of Health and Environment in Larimer County, Colorado reports that the “typical signs of infection in humans are fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, chest pain, and coughing. If tularemia is caused by the bite of an infected insect or from bacteria entering a cut or scratch, it usually causes a skin ulcer and swollen glands. Eating or drinking food or water containing the bacteria may produce a throat infection, stomach pain, diarrhea and vomiting.”

RELATED: Health Care Providers Advise Cautionary Measures as MERS Infections Spread

Cats are more susceptible to tularemia than are dogs, with young animals being at higher risk than adults. Mildly infected animals may only suffer from a brief period of poor appetite, lethargy, and a low grade fever that resolves without treatment. More severely affected individuals can suffer from dehydration, draining abscesses, jaundice, ulcers in and around the mouth, eye infections, swollen lymph nodes, enlarged liver and/or spleen, and high fevers.

A definitive diagnosis of tularemia is based on a combination of the potential for exposure, the presence of typical clinical signs and changes in basic lab work (e.g., evidence of infection, low platelet counts, and liver involvement), and a specific test for exposure to the bacteria. Treatment with certain types of antibiotics is usually quite effective, as long as it is started in a timely manner. Dogs and cats who are suspected or known to have tularemia need to be isolated, and the people who are treating them should wear gowns, masks, and gloves and take other biosecurity measures to protect themselves and others. Cases of tularemia need to be reported to the appropriate regulatory agencies.

RELATED: Heartbreak of Losing a Pet Can Be Cushioned With Planning

The Larimer County Department of Health and Environment makes the following recommendations for the prevention of tularemia in people and pets:

-Avoid handling dead [or sick] animals;
-Leash your pets when outdoors and keep them away from dead [or sick] animals.
-If a dead animal must be moved, avoid direct contact with it. Put on a repellent to protect yourself from its fleas or ticks, and use a shovel to scoop it up. Place it in a plastic bag and dispose in an outdoor trash receptacle. Wash your hands well afterwards.
-When outdoors near places where rabbits or rodents are present, wear an insect repellent containing DEET.
-Keep pets confined and away from dead [or sick] animals.
-Routinely use a tick and flea preventative on pets. Read the label and consult your veterinarian if you are unsure what to use.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Related articles you might want to read:
Bacterial Infection (Tularemia) in Dogs
Bacterial Infection (Tularemia) in Cats

Tularemia Awareness Is Critical to Prevention and Treatment” originally appeared on PetMD.com.

 

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    For a couple of years now, Australian scientists have been “field testing” a poison that they call “curiosity.” Get it? Curiosity killed the cat? Ha ha, right? Ugh. 

    You see, they developed it as means of controlling the nation’s feral cat population.

    The “tipped ear” is the universal sign of a feral cat in a managed colony. Photo CC-BY-SA Quinn Dombrowski

    Now, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, Gregory Andrews, recently appointed as Australia’s first threatened species commissioner, is planning to champion the use of curiosity to control feral cats, which environmental advocates allege are decimating native wildlife populations.

    Curiosity contains a poison that stops the flow of oxygen in the blood, and it’s considered a “more humane” way to kill feral cats. They put the stuff in meat and leave it out for the cats to eat.

    More humane than what? Leg hold traps? Rat poison? Shooting them?

    How humane is it make a cat suffocate?

    Officials plan to put the Curiosity bait in meat, which they will leave out for the cats to eat. Will other carnivores eat the poisoned meat and die? Will scavengers eat the dead poisoned cats and die? If officials have their way, they won’t find out until the Curiosity program has been underway for some time. Photo CC-BY Beverley Goodwin

    My first question when I read about curiosity was, “What collateral damage could this poison inflict?”

    According to the Morning Herald article, one official is saying that more research is needed to see if other animals such as marsupial carnivores could be at risk from the bait.

    Well, thank God somebody’s thinking about potential unintended consequences. It’s pretty clear that government officials and wildlife advocates aren’t.

    The long-term goal of the government and wildlife groups is to eliminate feral cats from the entire continent.

    Yeah, good luck with that.

    There are groups in Australia doing trap-neuter-return programs, but they’re few and far between. Even those groups seem to believe that TNR works fine for small urban colonies but not for larger colonies in rural areas. Some groups seem to be very keen on making the distinction between “wild” and feral cats, and they’re ensuring everybody and anybody that they work with “wild” cats but not with feral cats.

    A trap-neuter-return program could have stopped this. Photo CC-BY-SA Martin Lopatka

    First, I don’t know why some groups are so scared to be associated with feral cats. Do they get death threats when they advocate for community cats, or are they just too cowardly to speak up for animals who can’t speak for themselves?

    Second, I don’t buy the idea that TNR programs don’t work in rural areas. Having lived most of my life in Maine, where about 90 percent of the state is considered rural, I’ve seen organizations doing great work with TNR, which has had a very positive impact on the feral cats, both in terms of the colonies’ general health and the decrease in population by natural means.

    TNR can be done and it can successfully control cat populations. But it’s not a short-term solution, and that’s what the cat haters want. Research has proven time and time again that simply killing feral cats creates a vacuum into which more cats enter, thereby boosting the colony population again — and the cat vs. human arms race just rolls on.

    I don’t live in Australia, and I’m not a scientist, so maybe there’s something I’m missing here. I am, however, educated and well-read enough to understand that eradication efforts like poisoning a problem species often have unintended consequences. There’s a litany of research pointing this out.

    I wish the anti-cat lobby didn’t have such a big share of airtime, here in the U.S. and in Australia. I also wish that pro-wildlife groups and feral cat advocates could work together to create a meaningful and humane program to manage feral cat colonies and protect native wildlife.

    What do you think? Is curiosity a good way to control feral cats? If you’re in Australia, could you tell us about the real situation with feral cats and what, if any, groups are actually working together to create a humane and logistically sensible feral cat control initiative? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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    About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.

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      Smart Cat Feeder Uses Facial Recognition

      Posted July 21st, 2014 by admin

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      At the risk of upsetting my cat Murphy – who I’m convinced can not only read, but speed-read – here’s the latest bulletin from the world of cat feeder facial recognition technology.

      Credit: YouTube/Meow B.

      The Bistro smart cat feeder, designed by a team called 42ARK out of Taiwan, is the sort of crazy idea that Just Might Work. Currently in crowdfunding stage, the device combines several different technologies to ensure your cat is eating properly.

      That’s “properly” as defined by humans, not by cats, which is why I just let Murphy outside and am typing this in the closet. Like other automated cat feeders, the Bistro lets owners dispense measured amounts of food when kitty is home alone.

      RELATED: The Cat Who Couldn’t Spy: A CIA Fail

      But that’s just the beginning. Weight sensors beneath both the food bowl and the platform in front calculate precisely how much food gets eaten. Information is sent wirelessly to the Bistro smartphone app, which logs all dietary data so you monitor or restrict your cat’s intake.

      (What was that creaking? Did the front door just open?)

      Here’s the ingenious part: For families with multiple cats, the Bistro incorporates a camera and a facial recognition system to identify which cat is eating what, and when. So if your alpha cat is bullying the others and stealing food, you can bust the furry little devil – with photographic evidence.

      RELATED: Are Humans Reversing Cat Domestication?

      You can also set the platform scale to identify different cats by weight, or use the built-in camera as a kind of feline nanny-cam. This presents a valuable opportunity to check in on the cats while you’re away, to see what they really get up to when …

      (Oh, no. Something is scratching at the closet door. The knob is turning! Impossible ! Alt-tab! Alt-tab! Alt-tab!)

      via Jezebel

      MORE ON PAWNATION: African Elephants in Zoos Threatened by Obesity

       

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        African Elephants in Zoos Threatened by Obesity

        Posted July 20th, 2014 by admin

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        African elephants in captivity are packing on the pounds, and experts warn that the rise in obesity is contributing to infertility, which could be detrimental to the survival of the species in zoos.

        Elephant

        Credit: Getty Creative

        To get a handle on the problem, one group of researchers in Alabama is looking for a better way to measure body fat on the already huge animals.

        RELATED: Future Zoos: What Will They Look Like?

        Just like humans, elephants with excess fat are more likely to develop heart disease, arthritis and infertility, Daniella Chusyd, a graduate student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said in a statement. Previous studies have shown an alarming number of African elephants in zoos have irregular or no ovarian cycles. [Elephants Images: The Biggest Land Animal]

        Elephants in the wild are threatened by habitat loss and poaching, the illegal ivory trade that continues despite international efforts to shut it down. Zoos may be one of the few remaining ways to protect the species.

        The Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago issued a report in 2011 predicting that if the abnormal ovarian cycles and resulting low birthrates continue, then African elephants could disappear from zoos in the next 50 years. Zoos in the United States need to average about six births per year to maintain the population, but the current birthrate is only about three births per year. Obesity is suspected to be a major part of the problem.

        But elephants are so large that it’s difficult for zookeepers to tell the difference between a healthy weight animal and an obese one. Zookeepers can weigh elephants, but there is no good method to determine whether most of their body weight is from muscle or from fat. Kari Morfeld, an endocrinologist at the Wildlife Conservation Research Center at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo in Lincoln, Nebraska, recently came up with a unique way for determining the difference: comparing butt sizes.

        Morfeld used a series of photos to rank elephants based on how much fat is around the backbone and hips. She used a scale of 1 to 5, with one being the skinniest elephants and 5 being the fattest. Most elephants in the wild are 2s, but Morfeld found that about 40 percent of zoo elephants are 5s. Her research was detailed in April in the journal PLOS ONE.

        RELATED: Elephant Fat Farm in the Works

        However, estimating obesity from images alone is very subjective, Chusyd and her colleagues said.

        Chusyd instead plans to measure obesity in a more precise way. Starting in the fall, she will collect blood samples from elephants in zoos across the country and compare the amount of lean tissue to fat tissue. She hopes the results of the study will have important implications for zoos and animal care.

        “It may be that zoos will need to rethink how they house and feed elephants to reduce the incidence of overweight ,” Chusyd said in a statement. “And not just elephants, as we hypothesize that a relationship between obesity, inflammation and infertility is present in many large mammals, including other imperiled African animals such as the rhinoceros and the gorilla.”

        MORE ON PAWNATION: Spain Shark Scare Briefly Shuts Down Beaches

         

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        5 Things I’ve Learned From Living with Naked Cats

        Posted July 14th, 2014 by admin

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        Editor’s Note: It’s National Nude Day — yes, there is such a thing — so we’re republishing this post about Sphynx cats, the hairless or “naked” breed. We’ve also linked to other Catster posts below that expose thoughts on cats and nudity.

        I got my two female Sphynx cats within a year of each other from the same responsible and experienced breeder. Skinny Mini is a mischievous five-year-old calico tabby, and dainty three-year-old Fly has seal-tortie-sepia coloring. (Isn’t that an Instagram filter?) I had done my research on cat breeds and was not going into Sphynx ownership unprepared — or so I thought.

        The girls (always supervised!) on my balcony creeping the neighbors.

        Since adopting my first Sphynx, I’ve come to realize that:

        1. They are stunning creatures, but not everyone will agree with me

        Sphynx cats allow us to appreciate fascinating feline morphology without all that fur getting in the way. I knew I liked the unique appearance of the Sphynx before getting one, but I didn’t know I’d be so completely captivated by my cats’ big bat ears, runway model cheekbones, and delightful skin folds. I love how Fly’s legs look like she’s wearing sagging pantyhose, and how when Skinny Mini quivers her tail it sends a ripple of wrinkles up her back. I can’t get enough of stroking their soft, warm skin and kissing their adorable pot bellies. Sphynxes often don’t have whiskers or eyelashes, which draws even more attention to their expressive, almond-shaped eyes and chubby whisker pads.

        Unfortunately, I also realize now that a lot of people find this breed ugly and unappealing. I don’t know how many times I’ve shown someone a photo of my girls only to be met with a grimace and a comment along the lines of, “Ugh! They are so strange looking! Why would you want a cat like that?” I certainly find this type of remark insulting, and always hope that the same person doesn’t show me a picture of their kid just after.

        I understand that this breed is not everyone’s cup of tea, but as my mother used to tell me, ”If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” (Or, just lie to me and tell me my cats are super cute.)

        Skinny Mini being silly.

        2. They’ve got big mouths

        Sphynx cats are known for being chatterboxes. They “talk” to their owners using a whole repertoire of chirps, squeaks, and whines, and my girls are no exception. Skinny Mini is definitely the more communicative one. She’s got the vocal range of Mariah Carey and a diva personality to match. If you disturb her while she’s resting, she’ll let out a sound not unlike an annoyed teenager’s “Whaaat?” And, like a typical teenager, she’ll talk back to you if you tell her “no.” 

        And when Sphynxes aren’t using their mouths to (constantly) express themselves, they are shoving food in there. Thanks to an enviable metabolism, these cats have hearty appetites. Keeping them healthy and well-fed means putting aside a certain budget for quality cat food, and since I have two, I feel like I’m always buying cat food — and bags of litter. Owning a pair of Sphynxes has turned out to be more costly than I thought, but if it means cutting back on my own personal expenses to make sure my cats have what they need, I don’t hesitate.

        Fly got a glamour shot done at the mall (Joke!)

        3. They can get a little … gross

        I knew before getting my cats that hairless did not mean maintenance-free. Any Sphynx owner will tell you that these four-legged nudists need a lot of care. I was lucky because I adopted my girls as adults, and the breeder had already accustomed them to getting washed, having their ears cleaned and their nails trimmed; I simply had to keep up the good habits. I was warned that Sphynx cats can leave an oily residue on clothes and linen (and on their owners) if you don’t bathe them weekly, but it was still quite a surprise the first time I saw it for myself.

        Just a few days after getting Skinny Mini, she started sleeping under the covers with me. It was October, and still very warm in the southeast of France, and her sweating coupled with a bit of anxiety at being in a new home meant that she was even grimier than what I now know is normal. I woke up one morning to find a greasy, Skinny Mini-sized mark on the white fitted sheet. “Look!” I said to my husband with a certain degree of intrigue and disgust. “The cat is literally coming off on the bed sheets!” 

        That cat bed is the best 10 euros I’ve ever spent; they love it!

        And just like people, some Sphynx cats are better at keeping themselves clean than others. Skinny Mini loves giving herself pedicures to clean out the gunk that gets trapped in her nails beds and between each toe. She’ll park herself in the middle of the living room, usually when we have company over, fan out her webbed feet, and go to town noisily licking and chewing every claw. Fly prefers that I roll her up in a blanket, burrito style, and wipe off each nail for her. She’s more awkward than Skinny Mini, and will often accidentally swipe her long tapered tail through her litter box … deposits. I won’t notice until she jumps up on my lap and leaves a smelly surprise on my clothes. And she may only be five pounds, but Fly’s flatulence will make your eyes water.

        A word to the wise: This breed requires regular grooming in order to keep them healthy and comfortable, so if you are thinking to yourself, “Who’s got time for all that?” then a Sphynx is not for you.

        4. They really don’t like to be alone

        Unlike my (fully clothed) ginger tabby, Noé, who is a typical feline mix of cuddly aloofness, Skinny Mini and Fly border on being creepy little stalkers. You want personal space? Alone time with your significant other? Impossible with a Sphynx in the house. They are all up in your business all of the time. I’ll often be taking a shower, minding my own business, and turn around to find Fly perched on the edge of the tub, her large unblinking eyes boring into mine. “You wanted five minutes alone in the bathroom?” she seems to be asking. “I don’t think so.” (And yes, they can open doors!)

        Don’t get me wrong –- I love that they follow me around and solicit my attention constantly. I’m home alone a lot as my husband works long hours, and my cats give me something to focus on and take care of. They are always up for playing or warming my lap, and it’s impossible to feel lonely with them here. Sphynxes don’t like being left alone for long periods of time, so it can be a good idea to have a pair of them if you’re not home much. And even though Skinny Mini is a lot less needy since I adopted Fly, she still loves to sleep tucked in the crook of my arm every single night.

        Skinny Mini hanging out on my shoulder.

        5. They’ll completely steal your heart

        I am completely in love (read: obsessed) with my Sphynx cats. My life is so much fuller because they are in it, and while I might not have known what to fully expect when I got my first Sphynx (and then a second), I’ve worked to become to the best Sphynx mom I can be. These cats have totally won me over with their exotic look, playful personalities, and affectionate dispositions.

        Owning a Sphynx (or any pet, for that matter) is not for those who don’t want a big commitment. I’m ready and willing, though, because if I’ve learned anything in the crazy ex-pat life of mine, it’s to go big or go home!

        Here’s more about cats and nudity:

        Got a Cathouse Confessional to share?

        We’re looking for purrsonal stories from our readers about life with their cats. E-mail confess@catster.com — we want to hear from you!

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          Tiny Kitten Is Afraid of Moving Carpet

          Posted July 14th, 2014 by admin

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          This kitten’s imitation of a popping piece of popcorn is spot on. We don’t blame it though. That carpet pattern in motion would make anyone want to jump.

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          MORE ON PAWNATION:

          Birthday Dog Is Surprised With 100 Balls

          Goats Slide Around on Wooden Board

          Dog Doesn’t Dare to Pass Cat on the Stairs

           

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