It may seem strange to many of us, and certainly the Trustees of Feline Friends were surprised to discover, that the immediate examination and blood testing of a rescued cat by a veterinary surgeon is not the first priority of many cat rescue organisations.
It may well be that the considerable funding restraints on a large majority of these bodies is the reason for placing these tests low in the budgeting priorities. However, Feline Friends is extremely concerned about this approach, and we believe that the health risks for both cats and humans far outweigh other financial considerations.
Why do we hold this view?
The clinical background of a rescued cat is invariably unknown, and an apparently healthy animal may be harbouring infectious and/or contagious disease. Just a few of these are FCV (cat flu), FIV (immunodeficiency virus, otherwise known as feline aids), FeLV (leukaemia virus), and FIP (infectious peritonitis).
The Trustees are only too well aware that the provision of infectious disease management by the establishment of strictly controlled isolation facilities is – although being the ideal – too expensive for many organisations to afford.
However, the oft used current practice of simply putting the cat out to foster in a cage, a spare room, or a pen in the garden is not – in our opinion – adequate protection against the transmission of disease to other cats or even humans.
Many serious diseases fall under a group called zoonosis – meaning an infectious disease that can be transmitted from an animal to a human, and from a human to an animal (the latter is sometimes called reverse zoonosis). Therefore a well meaning fosterer or carer can unwittingly carry a disease from a newly rescued cat to another one in his/her care.
There are certain viral diseases for which a cure is still not available. Hence, once such a disease is diagnosed, an informed decision on the future care of the cat – which will vary from disease to disease – can be made. There are diseases which, whilst technically infectious, are not a great danger to other cats unless they have prolonged close contact. Other diseases (such as FIV) require isolation from other cats.
It is clear that correctly managed isolation is the ideal manner in which to prevent disease transmission. However, the immediate examination and blood testing (with subsequent treatment and/or isolation as appropriate) of a rescued cat by a veterinary surgeon would most certainly mitigate – if not totally remove – this danger.
Feline Friends would therefore encourage cat lovers to lobby their local rescue centres to adopt this practice, and to make donations to them specifically for this purpose.