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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Cats Eating Mice

   Given the opportunity cats will chase a mouse...sometimes kill it, too. In fact, many farms have barn cats whose job it is to kill rodents. The cats have food available and the farmer's grain is undisturbed.
     In addition to barn cats sometimes an indoor-outdoor cat will occasionally bring home a small kill to proudly display to its human. Our cat has never been outside, but there's a vagrant cat I named Elvis that frequently shows up at out backdoor looking for a handout and on a couple of occasions she has left me a gift, apparently in appreciation for her food. Once it was a dead field mouse and once a dead garter snake.
     Both “gifts” were scooped up with a shovel and thrown over the back fence into the woods. You have to be careful of the mice. Depending on the region, mice may be loaded with a variety of diseases that neither nor Elvis would want to encounter. Of course, she doesn't know any better. A cat catching and eating a mouse can get toxoplasmosis which can lead to uvitis, which in turn can lead to glaucoma. Although most cats are exposed to toxoplasmosis at one time or another, the usual reaction is mild, but the potential for far worse is there.
     In May, 1993 a new hantavirus, Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) was identified in New Mexico after forty-two people were infected, resulting eleven fatalities. Since that time, the new strain has been discovered in other parts of the U.S., with various rodents, including the common house mouse acting as hosts and the incidence of disease in humans has become widespread.
     Several other hantaviruses that affect humans exist worldwide and have been found responsible for outbreaks among animal caretakers and laboratory workers in Korea, China, Japan, Scandinavia, the U.K., France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and the Soviet Union.
     HPS can be transmitted to humans by handling infected mice, inhaling aerosols produced directly from the saliva or excreted waste of the animal is the most virulent means of transfer. For that reason, it's always a good idea to wear not only rubber gloves when handling a mouse the cat has brought home, but also a mask, and to thoroughly scrub any surface area the mouse may have contacted with a disinfectant.
     Early symptoms of HPS in humans are similar to those of other respiratory illnesses, including pneumonia, and may consist of:
■ Headache
■ Gastrointestinal complaints
■ Fever
■ Muscle pain
■ Variable respiratory symptoms
     The condition can quickly progress into acute respiratory distress and pulmonary edema. Since the incubation period for HPS is from one to three weeks, symptoms may not be readily associated with the dead mouse.
     The Center for Disease Control is unsure whether other animals that prey on rodents may be carriers, but has stated that cats themselves are not carriers of the hantaviruses that cause HPS in the United States, nor can it be transferred from one person to another.
     Toxoplasmosis has long been dreaded among pregnant women who live with cats. Cats can become carriers of the parasite from hunting and catching mice. The virus is in the cats' excrement and pregnant women can contract it from emptying the litter box and pass it on to the unborn baby with potential for birth defects and/or death. Healthy adults very seldom are even aware that they have been exposed to toxoplasmosis, however immunocompromised people (HIV or transplant patients) are at risk. Normally though, fear of toxoplasmosis is not sufficient reason to throw the cat out with the liter.
     Other sources of toxoplasmosis are eating under cooked meat and handling garden dirt that may contain the parasite. So, pregnant women and others at risk should always wear gloves when gardening and make it a habit to cook meat thoroughly.
     Mice carry other diseases that are far worse. The Plague, or Black Death. This is the disease that wiped out twenty-five percent of the world's population from the 14th through the 17th centuries.
     By far the most prevalent cause of salmonella in humans is by eating improperly prepared foods, but it is thought that the house mouse may also be a host of the infection and may play a role in human and animal salmonellosis.
     Rickettsialpox is found most often on the East Coast of the U.S. in rodent-infested housing and is transmitted by a mite carried by the common house mouse. This disease causes ulceration of the area surrounding the mite bite, fever, and a rash over the body and limbs.
     The obvious conclusion is that mice are not our friends, nor are they suitable cat food. Thta's probably why barn cats life expectancy is pretty short. It's also a good reason not to let pet cats roam outdoors.
     However, and I was unaware of this, if you want to treat your cat to an occasional mouse snack, they are available for sale online and are shipped frozen, usually in lots of 25 or 50. Honest. For example, day old frozen “pinky mice” cost $0.50 apiece and a Jumbo 3.5 inch to 4.25 inch mouse (I'd call something this big a rat) will set you back $0.90 apiece.

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