Thursday, February 22, 2024
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You Can Help: Kittens With Ringworm, Lots of Them

Four darling kittens...with ringworm.
Four darling kittens…with ringworm.

Pittsburgh C.A.T. already had four or five litters of kittens with ringworm in the mix, and the last thing I wanted to do was to add to them, especially since I can’t foster them, nor even help with their care. But I did. Even before this came up I was going to post about the ringworm kittens and share the Amazon wish list and other options for donation.

Ringworm is not a worm at all, it’s a fungal infection, but it’s often a death sentence in shelters because of its contagion and the difficulty and length of time of treatment even though the condition itself is more of a nuisance. It is highly contagious on contact, requires total isolation, constant treatment with dips and creams for weeks, and several tests in which you need to wait weeks to see if a ringworm culture develops, or not. Weeks of medications, medicated dips, skin cultures, scrubbing and bleaching and hazmat suits pass before kittens and cats are ready to meet the public, and all the extra medication and supplies are an expense on top of properly socializing, vetting and fostering the kittens.

First, about the kittens…

I spend part of each day in communication with people in my neighborhood or surrounding neighborhoods who are somehow trying to help cats. Most often, they’ve found kittens with or without a mother, and they want to do the best for them. Most of the time I can help them catch or trap them, then help them foster and vet them or TNR, and I never need to find a place for them to go.

I’d been conversing with a woman in a neighborhood about a mile from me. Her neighbor was feeding feral cats and had TNRd a few, but the trap resistant mother was back, with kittens. They felt the mother was feral, but if the kittens could be socialized they’d love to do that. Pittsburgh CAT is full, and unsocialized kittens shouldn’t go to a shelter, so I told them to work on finding someone who could foster and I’d coach and help as much as I could, and offered traps and options for low-cost vetting. They asked neighbors and others for fosters.

I also happened to send along instructions and photos for how to trap a mother cat when you’ve somehow gotten her kittens in a trap or carrier, placing the carrier of kittens behind the trap and covering it all so the mother cat thinks she has to go in the trap to get to them.

Trap with kittens setup.
Trap with kittens setup.

They weren’t prepared with a foster, but it was too good to pass up—when you’ve got them, hold onto them and somehow we’ll work things out. The mom and kittens had not shown up for food for almost a week when the woman trapping saw them last Wednesday morning. She grabbed all four of the kittens one by one and then decided to use the setup. In less than an hour they’d trapped the mother who’d had at least four litters. She said she wished she’d known it sooner, so I’m really glad I shared it with her, and I share it every chance I get for that reason.

The mom, who we presume is feral.
The mom, who we presume is feral.

I contacted Margo and let her know the situation, and since the kittens were young enough to socialize and the mother had a feeder to return to, we could take them if a foster could not be found. I drove them to our foster space to sort them out, and volunteer Lisa and I weighed them and looked them over. They were small for their age, with teeth and eating cat food already, but it’s a mystery how they were so darned friendly and so cute growing up in a feral colony. We were picking up two and three at a time to hug them and the kittens loved it. Unfortunately, we also noticed crusty spots of a particular nature on their tails. Because it could be ringworm, we wiped off everything they’d touched, set up their mom in a crate with a carrier so she could hide, and put the kittens in with her, then washed ourselves up. The next day it was definitively diagnosed as ringworm.

Taking care of kittens with ringworm

Ringworm is a fungal infection, contagious even without seeing symptoms because it drops spores on anything that touches it, from bedding, toys, carpet and even food to other cats to you—ringworm isn’t particular where it grows and humans can get it from an infected cat, as well as a cat getting it from an infected human. Kittens, elderly cats and those with a compromised immune system are the most susceptible, and it can move through a shelter environment like a wave if no one knows it’s present.

It can be as subtle as a thin patch of fur with crusty skin or shorter hairs that look as if they are growing back in, usually on the head, ears, tail or other extremities. Treatment may only involve a topical cream, but a more serious infection requires lime sulfur dips as well as topical cream and even sometimes medication, which means a lot of handling of the cat or cats, which also means that a full cover up is necessary, not just latex gloves but plastic gowns, shoe coverings, masks and hair bonnets to protect one’s own self as well as any other pets with whom one may come in contact.

Ringworm is currently diagnosed by a culture of infected hairs and skin scrapings and observing for growth of fungal colonies. If ringworm is confirmed, the animal then needs two negative cultures to confirm a cure. Even if the first culture is negative, the cat needs to be held back from adoption for 2 or 3 weeks while waiting for the result.

It is an expense and a time-consuming inconvenience to foster homes and to shelters, and for that reason, if a triage of adoptability is made, ringworm kittens usually lose.

Pittsburgh C.A.T. and ringworm

Pittsburgh CAT now has six litters of kittens with ringworm! They need your help with supplies.

“In order to treat ringworm, we change out our kittens’ environment every day. We take everything out, clean thoroughly, and give them new towels, new toys, new scratchers, and new training pads under their paws. We empty their litter boxes, throw away all of their litter, and then give them new litter after disinfecting their boxes. They get daily medication and weekly lime dips. That’s why we need so much disinfectant, and so many toys, training pads, and scratchers. They recover much more quickly from ringworm under this regimen!

If you are interested in donating supplies to help Pittsburgh C.A.T. care for their ringworm kittens, you can find the Amazon wishlist here:

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Many of my readers have often been generous in helping with the costs associated with rescues and other issues needing funding. My favorite reward program is titled “Donate For a Discount”. I will give you a gift certificate toward shopping on my website in thanks—for every $25.00 you donate in goods or cash I’ll give you a gift certificate for $5.00 off a minimum $25.00 purchase.

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2 thoughts on “You Can Help: Kittens With Ringworm, Lots of Them

  • stupid as this sounds, this was one of my biggest fears when I brought mackerull in. I’m sorry this has happened and wish the kittens and the shelter all the best. I’ll have a look at their wishlist

    ~~~~~~~~~~~ ♥♥♥

    • At least we are equipped with people who know how to handle it!


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