Feral cats are cats who live outdoors without human care or socialization. They face many challenges and dangers, such as hunger, predators, diseases, injuries, and extreme weather. In this blog post, we will explore some of the common health issues that feral cats may encounter during the summer and winter seasons, and how we can help them.
Summer Health Issues
Summer is a time of heat, humidity, and parasites for feral cats. Some of the health issues they may face include:
- Heatstroke: Feral cats can suffer from heatstroke if they are exposed to high temperatures without adequate shade, water, or ventilation. Heatstroke can cause dehydration, organ damage, seizures, coma, and death. Signs of heatstroke include panting, drooling, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and collapse.
- Dehydration: Feral cats need access to fresh water at all times, especially in the summer when they lose fluids through sweating and panting. Dehydration can lead to kidney failure, shock, and death. Signs of dehydration include sunken eyes, dry mouth, skin tenting, and decreased urination.
- Fleas: Fleas are blood-sucking parasites that can infest feral cats and cause itching, skin infections, anemia, and allergic reactions. Fleas can also transmit diseases such as tapeworms, cat scratch disease, and plague.
- Ticks: Ticks are another type of parasite that can attach to feral cats and feed on their blood. Ticks can transmit diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, and anaplasmosis.
- Ear mites: Ear mites are microscopic creatures that live in the ear canal of feral cats and cause irritation, inflammation, and infection. Ear mites can also spread to other parts of the body and cause skin problems.
- Worms: Worms are intestinal parasites that can infect feral cats through ingestion of contaminated food, water, or feces. Worms can cause diarrhea, weight loss, malnutrition, anemia, and organ damage. Some common types of worms are roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms.
Winter Health Issues
Winter is a time of cold, snow, and frostbite for feral cats. Some of the health issues they may face include:
- Hypothermia: Hypothermia is a condition where the body temperature drops below normal due to exposure to cold weather. Hypothermia can cause shivering, weakness, confusion, slow breathing, slow heart rate, and death. Signs of hypothermia include pale or blue skin, ears, nose, or paws.
- Frostbite: Frostbite is a condition where the tissue freezes due to exposure to cold weather. Frostbite can cause pain, swelling, blisters, necrosis (tissue death), and infection. Frostbite usually affects the extremities such as ears, nose, paws, and tail.
- Antifreeze poisoning: Antifreeze is a substance that is used to prevent freezing in car engines. Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol which is toxic to cats if ingested. Antifreeze poisoning can cause vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, kidney failure, and death. Signs of antifreeze poisoning include drunkenness, excessive thirst, urination, and lethargy.
- Upper respiratory infections: Upper respiratory infections are caused by viruses or bacteria that affect the nose, throat, and lungs of feral cats. Upper respiratory infections can cause sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge, eye discharge, fever, and difficulty breathing. Upper respiratory infections can also weaken the immune system and make feral cats more susceptible to other diseases.
- Abscesses: Abscesses are pus-filled pockets that form under the skin due to bacterial infection from wounds or bites. Abscesses can cause pain, swelling, redness, and fever. Abscesses can also rupture and drain pus or blood.
How to Help Feral Cats
Feral cats need our help to survive and thrive in their harsh environment. Here are some ways we can help them:
- Trap-neuter-return (TNR): TNR is a humane method of controlling the population of feral cats by trapping them, sterilizing them, vaccinating them, and returning them to their colonies. TNR reduces the number of unwanted kittens, improves the health and behavior of feral cats, and prevents the spread of diseases.
- Provide food and water: Feral cats need access to nutritious food and clean water to stay healthy and hydrated. You can provide food and water in bowls or containers that are sheltered from the weather and predators. You can also feed them at regular times and avoid leaving food overnight to prevent attracting other animals.
- Provide shelter: Feral cats need shelter from the elements to stay warm and dry. You can provide shelter by building or buying insulated cat houses or using plastic bins, cardboard boxes, or straw bales. You can also place the shelters in safe and quiet locations that are elevated from the ground and have multiple entrances and exits.
- Monitor their health: Feral cats may need veterinary care if they are sick or injured. You can monitor their health by observing their appearance, behavior, and appetite. You can also check their ears, eyes, nose, mouth, and coat for signs of infection or parasites. If you notice any problems, you can contact a local veterinarian or a feral cat organization for assistance.
Feral cats are resilient and resourceful animals who deserve our compassion and respect. By understanding their health issues and providing them with basic care, we can improve their quality of life and coexist peacefully with them.