Posts Tagged Toxoplasmosis
I read a recent blog post highlighting the feral cat problem in Hawaii (http://rumpydog.com/2014/08/14/so-hawaii-wants-to-kill-cats/). The post mentioned a paper published in Conservation Biology which indicated that Hawaiian residents preferred euthanasia over trap-neuter-release (TNR) programs when it came to feral cat management (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cobi.12201/abstract;jsessionid=FB4AAB1970A118DB0073E69D40924627.f01t04?deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=&userIsAuthenticated=false). This study was criticised as being flawed and its findings erroneous by Vox Felina, a group that supports TNR (http://www.voxfelina.com/2014/08/a-response-to-lohr-and-lepczyk/).
Whether or not the Conservation Biology study is flawed is irrelevant. What the residents of Hawaii prefer in this regard is also irrelevant. The fact remains, feral cats should not be present on Hawaii. They were introduced in the 1800s and have caused untold destruction to the native bird life since then. These species, like the birds of New Zealand, evolved without the presence of predators and are ill equipped to deal with them. Neutered cats kill just as many birds as cats that have not been neutered.
The debate over TNR and euthanasia only occurs because we have an emotional attachment to cats that has evolved over many hundreds of years. No one appears to be advocating TNR programs for the possums of New Zealand, the rabbits of Australia or the brown tree snakes running rampant on Guam. Why the inconsistency? All four groups of animals are feral and cause untold damage to their new environments, environments which will only recover properly if these animals are completely removed. The only way the New Zealanders were able to successfully reintroduce any of their endangered birds to their offshore islands was to remove every last cat.
As well as the predation issue cats also carry toxoplasmosis. This disease is caused by a small parasite that needs cats to complete its life cycle. It causes no disease in cats but has killed alala (Corvus hawaiiensis), nene (Hawaiian goose; Branta sandvicensis), red-footed boobies (Sula sula) and even the endangered Hawaiian monk seal (Monachus schauinslandi). Toxoplasmosis is also a zoonosis, posing health risks for pregnant women and immunocompromised people (http://www.usgs.gov/ecosystems/pierc/files/factsheets/cats.pdf).
Unfortunately as long as there are feral cats running around the Hawaiian Islands, its bird species will be at risk of extinction. No TNR programs will remedy that. The only remedy is to remove the cats from the environment. Anything else is nonsensical.
Dr. F. Bunny
Fred Grimm: Miami-Dade’s trap-neuter-release program utterly ignores science – Miami-Dade – MiamiHerald.com
Journal Article Addresses Feral Cat Colony Programs; Cites Rabies and Disease Risks – 08/23/2013 – Chattanoogan.com
Recently I was in Florida at a veterinary conference. Attached to the conference facility was a large hall full of exhibitors touting everything from the latest surgical instruments to stem cell treatments. There was also a booth belonging to Alley Cat Allies (https://www.alleycat.org). Intrigued, I sauntered over to take a look. Unfortunately they represent an organisation that, rather than attempting to solve the feral cat problem, seem destined to perpetuate it by their program of trap and neuter. This works by catching feral cats, desexing them, vaccinating them and then letting them go again. The result is a vaccinated population of cats that cannot breed, which will hopefully lead to a gradual decline in the population.
Unfortunately what it doesn’t address is the fact that feral cats, sterilised or not, still need to eat. In Australia it is estimated that cats chew their way through 3.8 million native Australian animals annually (http://www.derm.qld.gov.au/wildlife-ecosystems/wildlife/threats_to_wildlife/cat.html). Add that to the fact that they also spread diseases such as toxoplasmosis, a condition which causes large numbers of marsupial deaths each year. After some “lively” discussion the Allies put it to me that the situation in America is different to Australia, as American animals evolved with a feline presence e.g. bobcats and mountain lions. Unfortunately no one mentioned this to the sea otters that are dying of toxoplasmosis off the California coast.
The only sensible way to manage feral cats is to euthanase them. No one would suggest trap and neuter programs for foxes or rabbits (at least I hope not) and I don’t see why feral cats should be treated differently. They are treated differently because of our emotional attachment to cats (as discussed in “All Animals Are Equal”). One argument advanced against the trap and euthanase method is that fresh cats will wander in to fill the void. Good. Then they can be euthanased too until, hopefully, there are no more cats left to euthanase. The New Zealanders have successfully re-introduced a number of native bird species to some of their offshore islands. They were only able to do this, not by desexing and releasing cats, but by removing every last one of them.
The root of the problem obviously goes back to irresponsible cat owners who, for whatever reason, lose interest in their pet and decide to turn it loose on the world instead of either rehoming it or having it euthanased. For a more realistic discussion of the feral cat problem see “Who’s For Cats?” at http://www.whosforcats.com.au/.
And the definition of a feral cat? According to a friend of mine, it’s any cat found more than 100 metres from a house that doesn’t answer to “Here Puss, Puss, Puss”.
Dr. F. Bunny