While we are still in the midst of a global pandemic and uncharted territories, a surprising discovery involving cats and FIP has emerged with promising possibilities to a better understanding of COVID-19. In fact, cats may hold the key to overcoming the coronavirus.
While the outbreak of COVID-19 came as a shock to many, a similar scenario has already played out in a feline virus decades ago. Feline enteric coronavirus (FECV), the virus responsible for cats developing Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), emerged out of no where in the 1960s. However, scientists and researchers have still not pinpointed the origin of this virus, similar as we are currently still trying to trace back the origins of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19.
While this situation is a novel one for humans, it has been seeing the clinical signs for years in cats and kittens infected with FIP. Most cats have no or mild symptoms when infected with FECV. They shed the virus for a short time and then recover. However, small number of infected cats end up developing full-blown FIP,
Although the FDA differentiates between animal and human health, there is potential for scientists, physicians, and researchers to gain further insight, and perhaps even an effective treatment, for COVID-19. One company based in California, Anivive Lifesciences, is applying their knowledge of FIP antiviral therapies to a potential therapy to be used by humans infected with COVID-19. The company has recently filed a pre-Investigational New Drug (pre-IND) to begin preclinical studies for the drug they use to treat FIP, called GC376, for treatment of COVID-19.
However, it is important to clarify that Anivive does not participate in any vivisection, and does not infect cats wtih either SARS-CoV-2 or FECV in their research. They rely on their current FIP data to better understand clinical comparisons during human trials. GC376 inhibits coronaviruses by blocking the action of a protein that the virus needs to replicate itself. In turn, this prevents cells from producing virus particles, which prevents the further spread of the infection through a host, either cat or a human. Anivive is increasing manufacturing capabilities and moving forward more quickly on formulation and stability studies.
Currently, humans are still playing catch-up when it comes to finding a cure or preventive vaccination for COVID-19. However, the information that scientists and researchers have extrapolated from cats infected with FECV and FIP gives a promising hope for a better understanding of SARS-CoV-19 and COVID-19, and hopefully, a chance at finding a cure.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had widespread and significant effects on TNR efforts throughout the country. With social distancing measures in place, the closure of vets and spay/neuter clinics, and limited spaces in ones that remain open, individuals practicing TNR at this time must take some extra steps and precautions.
First, confirm that your spay/neuter clinic is open and accepting community cats. Also confirm if an appointment is required, or if you can bring them in on a walk-in basis. Clinics have amended their policies to limit physical contact and maintain social distancing, so inquire beforehand what the new protocols in order to prepare yourself and the cats.
If spay/neuter clinics are closed or operating on a limited capacity, consider prioritizing trapping the cats that are most in need. Similarly, avoid locations where you may be at a greater risk of contracting the virus.
In order to limit the number of individuals you come into contact with while trapping, focus on trapping a large colony as opposed to trapping at various sites with lower numbers of cats. When trapping single cats of small groups, prioritize the colonies with female cats who may be pregnant or be at high risk of becoming pregnant. Sites with only male cats or kittens under five months should be considered a lower priority.
In order to adhere to social distancing, target sites that can be easily accessed without having to through a home or building. Similarly, visit sites where you already know the caretaker and where additional door-to-door outreach is not necessary. Do not trap at any site where a caretaker is suspected of having or has been diagnosed with COVID-19, and if necessary, arrange for a replacement caretaker while the primary caretaker recovers.
Instead of speaking in person with caretakers or residents at the trapping site, communicate with them via emails, calls, or texts. Be sure to have contact information for anyone you may need to speak with before the day of trapping. If you are unfamiliar with the site, have the caretaker provide you with photos of key areas, such as where the cats are fed and where they stay.
If possible, trap on your own as opposed to in teams. If it is necessary to trap with others, do not have more than two people participating at one time. Remember to maintain social distancing measures with caretakers, other trappers, and residents in the community. Where a face covering at all times, and be careful not to touch your face. Wash your hands thoroughly before and after trapping. While in the field, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol after touching shared surfaces.
To minimize contact, each trapper should use their own set of supplies and drive in a separate car. Mutual handling of traps should be avoided when possible. If more than one person is handling the traps, wipe the trap handles and doors with a disinfectant and sanitize your hands afterwards.
Clean and Disinfect
After completing your trapping, thoroughly clean and disinfect traps and other equipment, as well as any vehicles used to transport cats and holding areas where cats were held before and after surgery. Wash trap covers at the hottest appropriate setting, and change clothes after returning home. And as always, wash your hands thoroughly.
If you come across a litter of previously unknown kittens at or near weaning age, consider the options the kittens have for socialization and adoption. Many shelters and rescue organizations may be closed, but may have a waiting list of available fosters. If no placement is available, provide the kittens with the appropriate vet care and return them to their colonies.
Stay Up to Date
This situation is constantly changing and evolving, so continue to keep yourself informed on policies regarding face coverings, social distancing, and other recommended safety precautions. Visit the AVMA and CDC websites for the most current recommendations and always remember to use precaution while trapping during the pandemic.
There are many misconceptions and myths surrounding toxoplasmosis and the potential threats it poses to pregnant or immuno-comprised individuals. To begin, toxoplasma gondii is an intestinal parasite that is most often associated with cats. The parasite causes the disease toxoplasmosis, which is a potential health concern for pregnant women. This parasite is estimated to infect as much as one third of the world’s human population, but very rarely do those infected get sick.
However, the parasite can be dangerous in rare cases. Individuals with weakened immune systems, such as AIDS patients, can sometimes become seriously ill as a result of infection. Similarly, pregnant women can pass on the parasite to their unborn child. For this reason, many doctors are quick to tell pregnant women to get rid of their cats. However, it is important to note that there is less risk of acquiring toxoplasmosis from cats than from eating raw vegetables and undercooked meat. Additionally, owning a cat does not increase the risk of contracting toxoplasmosis.
Still, pregnant women can take certain precautions when in contact with cats. If pregnant, one should avoid cleaning litter boxes if possible, as infected cats could pass the parasite in their feces. If a pregnant woman has no alternative but to clean the litter box herself, she should wear disposable gloves and wash her hands thoroughly afterwards. Furthermore, it is important to scoop the litter box frequently, ideally daily, to decrease the chance of infection as the oocysts in cat feces takes one to three days to become infectious.
Pregnant women should also keep their cat indoors, so that the cat is not exposed to other animals who may be infected. Additionally, all newly adopted cats should be tested for the disease. Pregnant women can also be screened for toxoplasmosis. The only risk occurs when the parasite infects a woman during pregnancy; if she was exposed to toxoplasmosis before pregnancy, there is no risk to her child since she will have developed antibodies. If a woman is pregnant when she contracts toxoplasmosis, medication is available for effective management and treatment.
ACR does not want to make light of the fact that if a pregnant woman does contract toxoplasmosis it can be dangerous for her unborn baby. However, individuals who are uninformed and those who do not like cats exaggerate this particular hazard. Many doctors are unaware that the risk of toxoplasmosis transmitted via infected cats to pregnant women is very low, and acquiring it through exposure from cat feces is far less likely than from raw and undercooked meat. Thousands of women with cats go on to give birth to happy, healthy babies, and being pregnant is not a reason to give up your cat. By simply following basic safety precautions, you can protect yourself and your baby from acquiring toxoplasmosis without having to give up your cat.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Toxoplasmosis.” CDC.gov. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 July 2014.
Montoya, J. G., and O. Liesenfeld. “Toxoplasmosis.” Lancet 363.9425 (2004): 1965–76. NCBI PubMed. Web. 29 Sept. 2014.
Vittecoq, Marion et al. “Cat Ownership Is Neither a Strong Predictor of Toxoplamsa Gondii Infection nor a Risk Factor for Brain Cancer.” Biology Letters (2012): rsbl20120625. Rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org. Web. 17 July 2014.
One of the common complaints among people with gardens and yards is that feral cats will often use their outdoor area to urinate and defecate. However, there are a number of different solutions to remedy this problem. Cats can be discouraged from digging in your garden beds or wandering around your yard by employing a few tactics or products. Be sure to change your tactics regularly, as a new cat might not respond to your usual methods.
The first option is to use an odor barrier. Cats have extremely sensitive noses, with 200 million odor receptors, compared to humans, who have a measly five million. By making your garden or yard offensive to a cat's sense of smell, you have a greater change at keeping them away. Commercial cat repellents use the odor barrier method to discourage cats from entering off-limit areas. Shake-Away powder, a commercial cat repellent, has the scent of predators that cats fear, such as coyotes, foxes, and bobcats. It comes in a granular form, which you can simply sprinkle on your garden or yard. It is non-toxic, organic, and will not harm your plants. Additionally, some plants give off an unpleasant odor to cats, such as Coleus canina, rue, lavendar, and pennyroyal. Cats also dislike the smell of citrus, so you can try using the peels of oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits in your garden.
Using a physical barrier is another form of deterrent. Chicken wire is very efficient at keeping cats away, as they hate bristly material. Additionally, cats prefer to dig and defecate in loose dirt, so using sharp-edged pine cones, holly cuttings, eggshells, or stone mulch will deter them from using your garden as a litter box.
Finally, another effective option is to use sound barriers. Cats are far more sensitive to sounds than humans, therefore it is effective means of prevention. Cat Stop is an electronic cat deterrent decide that produces a high frequency which is inaudible to humans but extremely unpleasant for cats. It works by using a motion sensor, and when it detects an intruder, it emits the high-frequency sound thus scaring off the cat. The SsssCat! is also motion activated and uses sound and a sprayed repellent to keep cats away.
While it may be annoying to deal with cats using your garden or yard as their personal litter box, the problem is not without its solutions. There are many safe and humane options and products available to prevent cats from visiting your property, so do some research and decide which method works best for you.
For many years there has been a widespread misunderstanding around the topic of FIV+ cats. However, a recent long-term study conducted by Purdue University’s College of Veterinary examined FIV+ cats in shelters and drew two important conclusions: FIV-positive cats can live with FIV-negative cats and not infect the FIV-negative cats during normal day-to-day interactions, and mother cats infected with FIV don’t pass the virus on to their kittens.
While this has been a widely known and accepted fact among cat experts, the general public is generally misinformed when it comes to FIV+ cats and the risk of transmission to other household cats. The study confirms that there is no reason for FIV cats to be adopted only into homes with other FIV-positive cats. The disease is transmitted only by deep bite wounds, which happens only if the cats get into intense fights, which can usually be easily prevented by taking the necessary steps.
The incorrect belief that mother cats can pass FIV on to their kittens is widely believed by cat owners. As a result, many thousands of cats and kittens have been unnecessarily euthanized. These otherwise adoptable animals are destined for euthanasia because of the false beliefs perpetuated by stereotypes and misinformation.
Compounding this issue is that cat owners often confuse FIV for FeLV (the feline leukemia virus), which is transmissible through cohabitation and casual contact. These two diseases are retroviruses and both affect the immune system. However, there is a critical difference. FIV does not easily cross the mucous membranes (the lining of the mouth, nose, eyes, genitals, and intestines), which is why it’s so difficult for FIV to be transmitted to other cats.
Ultimately, this study confirms what cat advocates have known for years - FIV+ cats can live a long and healthy life in the company of other cats in the home, without significant risk of transmitting the disease. It is time to end the stigma surrounding FIV and FIV+ cats, and place them in loving homes just as all cats deserve.
During this pandemic, everyone is probably feeling a little stir crazy, your cat included. Here are some fun ways to keep your cat entertained while you're both staying at home.
1. Food Puzzles - This will help with your cat's natural instinct to hunt for their food. There are many types of food puzzles available at your local pet store or even DIY ones.
2. Vertical Space- Provide your cat with the feel of outdoors without leaving the house. By creating perches, shelves or having a cat tower by windows will allow your cat to view the outdoors and release their climbing and clawing needs. There are many different ways to create vertical spaces for your cat!
3. Interactive Toys- These toys create a bonding experience between you and your cat. They can include wand toys, strings, and laser pointers (remember to always have a toy for them to catch in the end!).
4. Self Play Toys.- These are types that a cat can use on their own. There are a variety of battery operated toys, balls or even something as simple as a cardboard box! Check out your local pet store for many options!
Providing your cat with an enrichment filled environment will lead to a mentally, emotionally and physically happy cat!
While many people across the globe are struggling to make ends meet, caring for and feeding community cats can easily fall by the wayside. However, even during these times, we still have an obligation to ensure the health and well being of cats living outdoors, many of which rely on humans for food and shelter.
In Turkey, a place famous for their love of cats, the Interior Ministry issued a letter urging local administrations to protect and feed the country’s hundreds of thousands of stray cats while residents stay at home to contain the spread of the coronavirus. In the notice, the ministry wrote, “Food and water will be left at the living environments of street animals, such as parks and gardens, and particularly animal shelters. All necessary measures must be taken to ensure stray animals don’t go hungry.” In Istanbul alone, there are over 150,000 stray cats, who normally rely on the public for food and water. This initiative aims to ensure that no cat goes hungry while people are self-isolating. Similarly, in South Africa, feeding feral cats was deemed an essential service, so nonprofits and volunteers are continuing to feed colonies throughout the country.
At ACR, we are continuing to feed all of our colonies, and have taken over several others that were not being fed. Even though resources are stretched thin, ACR still cares for these colonies 365 days a year, despite the ongoing pandemic. If you are a colony caretaker, please continue to feed and care for your colonies. If you are unable, find someone who can replace you until you are able to continue. While the health and well being of individuals is important during this pandemic, it is equally important to ensure that the feral cats who rely on humans are fed and healthy as well.
As recently as 2019, feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) meant a certain death sentence for cats. Fortunately, Dr. Niels Pedersen of UC Davis discovered the cure for FIP: GS-441524, otherwise known as GS. So how does GS work?
In cats, FIP causes an immune defect or deficiency that causes white blood cells to multiply, as opposed to fight, the virus. Basically, cats with FIP have an immune system that spreads the virus throughout the body rather than trying to eradicate it. Some cats have no immune response, and they develop wet FIP. Cats who have partial immune response develop dry FIP. For either diagnosis, GS works by interjecting itself into the chain reaction and stops the replication of the virus.
Dr. Pedersen’s study determined that a 12 week, once daily administration is the successful course of treatment. Stopping treatment even after blood work returns to normal before the 12 weeks means a possible relapse. Cats who complete the full 12 week treatment and remain symptom less for 90 days after competition of the treatment are officially cured of FIP. GS comes in both injectable and pill form. Both are administered daily and the dose is determined by the weight of the cat.
The side effects of GS are relatively mild. Skin lesions and burns can be caused due to the acidity of the solution in injectable form. For this reason, it is recommended to always clean the cat’s skin after administering an injection. A mild pain medication, Gabapentin, can be given orally prior to the injection to prevent pain. However, most cats using GS injections tolerate the treatment and do not need any pain medication or sedative.
The biggest challenge facing GS at the moment is that the 12 week treatment is often considered cost prohibitive. Each 5 mL bottle of treatment costs from $80 - $358 depending on the brand. The dose is determined by the weight of the cat; each bottle of GS is 5mL liquid at either 15mg or 16.57 mg concentration. Therefore, 12 weeks of treatment can cost anywhere from $1,100 - $11,000 depending on the brand of GS used and the weight of the cat. This is a legitimate and unfortunate deterrent for owners wanting to treat their FIP cats with GS, and there is no sign that a cheaper alternative is in development. However, should you have the resources to treat your cat with GS, chances are that your kitty will go on to live a long and healthy life.
Each 5 mL bottle of treatment costs from $80 - $358 depending on the brand. The appropriate dose is based on the weight of the cat. Twelve weeks of treatment can cost anywhere from $1,100 - $11,000 depending on the brand of GS and the weight of the cat.
With more than 30 states placing nonessential vet visits on an indefinite hold due to the coronavirus outbreak, sterilizations and vaccines are also included under this restriction. While spaying or neutering is an important preventative measure, it’s not considered essential at this time. This puts unsterilized feral and stray female cats at high risk for becoming pregnant and giving birth to even more litters on the street. To make matters worse, this is occurring at the height of kitten season, which is the time of year where it becomes warmer and more mother cats become pregnant and give birth. Normally, shelters are filled with kittens at this time, but with most shelters closed, these kittens and their mothers are left to fend for themselves on the streets.
Similarly, TNR operations have decreased substantially, with only a few vets performing spay/neuters by appointment only. Furthermore, rescues who pull animals from shelters are now unable to have animals cleared by a vet before taking them in and may have to pay a higher cost to get them checked through other veterinarians, if they are able to make appointments. These factors mean that TNR organizations like ACR will have to play a major game of catch up once this pandemic comes to an end. With the number of kittens on the rise during kitten season, ACR will face an uphill battle trapping, sterilizing and vaccinating this surplus of new kittens, as well as their mothers. Similarly, while admirable, the outpouring of individuals fostering and adopting cats during quarantine has freed up space in shelters, but adoption agencies are often unable to spay/neuter cats and kittens before adopting or fostering. While this is not ideal, there is an agreement between the foster/adopter to have the cats sterilized once vet services return to normal.
In order to reach its goal of managing community cat colonies and practicing as much TNR as possible, ACR will rely heavily on generous donations from its supporters. At the same time, ACR is very cognizant that for many, money is very tight right now and that a lot of organizations are looking for philanthropy to get through this crisis. However, ACR hopes you understand the terrible effect this pandemic has had on TNR to get cats and kittens off the streets and prevent mother cats from becoming pregnant and giving birth in years to come.
With many people out of work and without a steady income, you may be struggling to feed your cats. Luckily, there are nationwide and statewide pet food banks that can serve you during these trying times. ACR has complied a list of food banks that provide essentials for your cat if you are having difficulty affording them yourself. Similarly, if you have extra food or the resources to purchase food, these pet food banks are eagerly accepting donations. Click on the button below to find a list of pet food banks in your state that can help you during you and you cats' time of need.
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