Ireland’s Health Services (HSE) has been criticised for trapping and euthanising feral cats which were identified as being a source of a recent flea outbreak at University Hospital Galway (a hospital for people).
This is an interesting little story but it is not a current story, I would like to add. I think it dates from 2013.
Apparently, a number of staff working at the hospital in the outpatient department had been bitten by fleas over a period of weeks. The natural question to ask was where did these fleas come from?
That’s an interesting question because one immediately presumes that these were cat fleas or at least management appear to have presumed that and from that starting point I suppose somebody in authority at the hospital decided that the only source of cat fleas were the feral cats, which I also presume were somewhere near the hospital feeding on waste supplied by the hospital.
The hospital management employed a pest control company to remove the feral cats from the hospital grounds. It was reported that the cats were subsequently taken to a veterinarian to be humanely put down or relocated. It was also stated that some were rehoused, if possible. I doubt whether that was possible!
Concerned people were highly critical of the behaviour of the hospital in putting down feral cats. A spokesman for Galway Cat Rescue stated that it was almost impossible that the feral cats were responsible for the outbreak of fleas for the simple reason that feral cats are frightened of people and steer clear of them.
Genuine feral cats will steer well clear of people. Not only is the killing of feral cats inhumane under the circumstances, it is ineffective because as soon as some feral cats have been culled others will turn up in their place. In addition, everyone knows that feral cats help to keep rodent populations down and rodent populations are probably a greater hazard to a hospital than the odd feral cat.
It has been suggested that the most likely cause of the infestation of fleas in the outpatients department of the hospital was a person who walked into the hospital with the fleas on his person.
Fleas like to live in the fur of cats because the environment is perfect for a cat flea. However, cat fleas can live on people, perhaps in their clothes. It is certainly quite plausible that a person who went to the outpatients department (a patient or a member of staff) kept cats at his or her home and had failed to ensure that her home was free of cat fleas. Perhaps there was an infestation at her home. Who knows?
It just seems that once again that the feral cat has been made a scapegoat as is often the case.