Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Cat’s: Part 2. I had my tongue tucked firmly in my cheek when I was discussing the relative merits of feeding scraps to Annick’s numerous cats rather than chucking them in the bin. Both Val and Mandarine posted comments, warning me of the catty disease, toxoplasmosis, so I reached for my brand new copy of Black’s Student Veterinary Dictionary. (Top tip: if you want to buy one, the student version has a soft cover but is identical in content and much cheaper). I read that toxoplasmosis “is a disease of man and of most warm-blooded animals. It is a major cause of abortion in ewes but the signs of disease in other species can vary widely.” Infection can be via “oocysts present in feline faeces … [which] can survive outside the body for 17 months (p 714).” So cat poo is potentially very much more insidious than just the annoyance of getting it stuck on your shoe.

I remember from school a mathematical modelling of the population of foxes (predators) and rabbits (bouncy food items) which goes something like this: 1. Few foxes let the rabbits multiply. 2. More rabbits mean more food so the foxes multiply. 3. Many foxes eat more rabbits, whose population thus declines. 4. Few rabbits, so foxes go hungry and decline and then we’re back to square 1. It was represented on the blackboard as a pair of sine waves half a phase out of synch. Now we don’t need this level of theoretical analysis to see that if we make more food available then the (already large) local population of cats will increase. It’s a shame really as they’re all a bit scrawny but more food will definitely mean more cats, rather than the same number of cats better nourished.

Gabrielle’s had a cat before but I’m not a catty person, having an allergy to cats indoors and I grew up with a dad who used to throw water, stones and even half bricks (always missing, I can assure you, he played rugby for the town, never cricket) to discourage them from our garden and its wild birds, so cats were “bad”. I can now see their appealing side but wouldn’t choose one as a pet because of the aforementioned allergy. I’ve heard it said that dogs have owners and cats have servants and it appears that one of these cats has chosen us and spends most of its time hanging around our house, rather than with the others. Not wanting it adding to the population, nor wanting to have to drown kittens in a bucket, we decided to do our bit and get her spayed, wormed and de-flea-ed. She lives outside, gets fed alone and is starting to look better by the day. If you live near us and fancy a cat, we can introduce you to the venerable Annick, who’s more than happy to give the cats away but shows no other inclination to control their numbers. And if you know anything more about toxoplasmosis or have had an experience with it, please post a comment.