This is a new disease, a mystery disease that can affect the roaming, outdoor domestic cat who lives in Scotland; more particularly between Aberdeen and Inverness. Apparently around 50 cases have come to light over the past ten years. There is no cure. The small number and length of time over which these cases came to light is interesting or worrying. The figures would indicate that veterinarians in Scotland have known about this for a while. If, that is, we can trust the newspaper, The Daily Mail, that has reported this today, 17th April 2012. This is not the most reliable British newspaper.
Cats who get the disease are eventually euthanised. The disease is progressive. The signs are that the cat acts like a robot becoming “stuck in corners” and being unable to turn around. Professor of feline medicine, Danielle Gunn-Moore of Edinburgh University says. “Their head is forward, their chin is slightly down, their ears are forward and they have a very stiff walk and stiff tail..They walk like robots”.
It would seem that the disease affects the nervous system. The cat’s personality changes too; the cat becomes more affectionate or more aggressive (rather vague that).
It is believed that transmission does not take place between cats. Accordingly, as the infected cats are outdoor hunters, it is believed that the disease is transmitted from the prey that they catch, mice and voles.
Vets have tried various treatments to no avail. Older cats are usually affected. When the time comes that the disease affects the cat’s ability to swallow the decision is made to euthanise.
A similar disease in Sweden and Austria is called, “staggering disease”.
The only wild cat living in the UK is the Scottish wildcat. They have the same diseases as domestic cats except for FIV (source: Feline viruses in wildcats from Scotland – authors: Daniels MJ, Golder MC, Jarrett O, MacDonald DW of the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, UK).
The Scottish wild cat is very rare and endangered. It would seem possible that the Scottish wild cat is able to contract the same disease. Should that be the case, the conservationists must be concerned.
Of course, if the cat-to-cat transmission assessment is incorrect it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the disease is transmitted from wildcat to domestic cat as they often mate with each other producing hybrids. Hybridisation is the major threat to survival of the wild cat in Scotland.