So There’s a Nice Cat At Your Door

Lily Rose was as nice as could be.
0 Lily Rose was as nice as could be.

It’s hard to resist a pretty and friendly cat, especially when they stand out there and look in at you so hopefully, sometimes for days on end. They are hungry, they just want to come inside and rest, and you’re sure they’ll be a good cat.

Or you found a kitten and it’s all alone and you know it needs company, and your cats love kittens. The kitten would do so much better with your cats to play with it and wash it and let it cuddle with them.

And if you give in, it could be the worst mistake of your life, and your cats’ lives.

I still hear of people who take in a friendly cat and let it mingle with their household, happy at how well they get along, believing because it is friendly and social and looks healthy, it is.

Even though that cat you found is so friendly or that kitten is so cute, and they all look fine and healthy, not even your veterinarian can look at a cat and tell if it’s carrying a contagious illness. Never add a cat whose health history you don’t know to the mix in your household without an observation period in a quarantined area, and a visit or consultation with a veterinarian. Blood tests need to be done, and time needs to pass for possible illnesses to incubate and symptoms to appear. If you need to take the cat in, you can safely quarantine the cat and observe it as well as make an appointment with a veterinarian.

You need to be aware of the possible illnesses they could be carrying and how they are spread, which can happen even with the cat standing at your screen door nose to nose with your own cats. Even if your cats are current on their core vaccines, there are diseases that can’t be vaccinated against, and diseases like FeLV are not often given to cats who don’t go outdoors.

Among the most dangerous and most easily transmitted are:

  • feline distemper
  • feline leukemia virus (FeLV)
  • virulent systemic feline calicivirus (VS-FCV)
  • rabies

A cat can be carrying any one of these, including rabies, and not show any symptoms at all, and can be spread by casual contact—a sneeze, sharing food or water, mutual grooming.

Cats are not vaccinated against everything

Yes, even a tiny kitten could be carrying a potentially fatal contagious illness and pass it on to your household. There is even a danger to an unrelated nursing mother cat and her original litter if a stray kitten is put with her to nurse but is carrying an infectious disease.

If your cats are up to date on vaccines, the FVRCP vaccine cats are given protects against feline distemper, upper respiratory infections and normal feline calicivirus but not the virulent strain. If the kitten’s mother had been vaccinated chances are she would have passed the immunity on to her kittens while they were nursing. However, if the mother cat had been abandoned and never received any vaccinations, which is often the case with young cats abandoned with kittens, the mother and her kittens could easily become infected, and if the kitten is older than eight weeks it’s generally past the age for immunity derived from its mother.

Rabies vaccine is not administered until 12 weeks, and unfortunately several stray kittens are found each year to have rabies.

Incubation periods, and cats hiding symptoms

FeLV can take up to 30 days and FIV can take up to 60 days to incubate after infection so testing immediately isn’t always accurate, and tests on kittens younger than eight weeks are not always reliable.

Cats are masters at hiding illness, and few of us know all the symptoms of all the illnesses they could be carrying. Second, incubation periods and contagious periods vary. A cat you’ve been feeding in your back yard may have no vaccine immunity to contagious illnesses, and the day before you take her in encountered a cat with distemper or FeLV. You think she’s fine because you know her. Days or weeks can pass before you see any symptoms, yet in that time she can be developing or shedding a disease. Unless you’ve contained the cat or observed it every moment while outside, never presume you know all its activities.

Quarantine periods

Personally, I quarantine no matter where a cat has come from for both health and social reasons, even if it has vet records and I know its personality. From the shelter, someone’s home, the street, no matter where the cat came from, I observe for any signs of illness as latent illnesses can appear from the stress of a move to a strange place. I also assess its personality and actions toward me to form a bond with it and anticipate how the cat will react when introduced to my household. Anything that makes that transition easier is valuable.

I quarantine completely for at least two weeks and watch carefully for any symptoms that appear, then loosen things up a bit after two weeks if I know the foster’s health history. Two weeks is enough time to see symptoms develop from a URI and many other common viruses that may be latent even if the cat encountered it the day they came in. It’s common for cats and kittens to develop a little sneeze or runny eye that’s usually related to stress rather than illness and if so you can watch to see if it passes on its own. I also let my veterinarian know I have rescued yet another cat so that she knows I may call with questions about a cat she’s never seen, and if I’ll be contacting her it will likely be in that initial two weeks.

The cat is still there, so what should you do?

Contact a shelter or rescue, or your own veterinarian, and make arrangements for the cat or kitten to be examined and tested to the extent it can be. If an adult, you can check for a microchip or find lost pet boards to post it on and hope you find the cat’s owner. If the cat is well and has no safe place to go, you can either choose to foster it for a shelter or rescue, or take it in, safely, and observe and then slowly introduce the new cat to your household.

~~~

Also read Fostering Rescued Cats and Kittens, Part 1 and Part 2.

The pretty calico at the top is Lily Rose, who belongs to a neighbor, which took a while for the neighborhood to figure out. She is quiet and sweet and very nice, just the sort of cat you’d want to bring in.


Read more articles in the category Health and Welfare

Browse some rescued cats and kittens!

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© 2016 | www.TheCreativeCat.net | Published by Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life
Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork
Thursday: New Merchandise
Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy
Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!

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Bernadette

From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, The Creative Cat offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats. From catchy and creative headlines to factual articles and fictional stories, The Creative Cat provides constant entertainment and important information to people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

6 thoughts on “So There’s a Nice Cat At Your Door

  • August 19, 2016 at 1:41 pm
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    grate post guyz….eye waz quarun teened for like for EVER …then even afturr eye had been let outta prizon 4 yeerz later; it waz dis covered eye had wermz….& knot de fishin kind ….still knot sure why thiz waz never “found” in de furst place…..but that was 18 yeerz ago sew ~~~

    butter lover boomer o cat♥♥♥

    Reply
    • August 19, 2016 at 1:56 pm
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      I was going to mention fishing with those worms Boomer, but at least it all worked out well and you sure landed in the right house!

      Reply
  • August 19, 2016 at 12:54 pm
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    Ringworm, or just a plain old bad case of fleas or intestinal worms can also be a nasty surprise and threatening to your cats. I totally agree about quarantining and a vet visit asap.

    Reply
    • August 19, 2016 at 1:55 pm
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      Mollie, yes, and there are URIs and herpes too, but the really deadly ones, it’s really sad.

      Reply
  • August 19, 2016 at 11:23 am
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    Those are such good ideas when strange cats appear. I do the same thing. I have been lucky lately and haven’t had any show up at my place. Now I have just jinxed myself.

    Reply
    • August 19, 2016 at 1:54 pm
      Permalink

      Either that or you’ve finally fixed them all Marg!

      Reply

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