Is it too dangerous to feed feral cats in America?

Is it too dangerous to feed feral cats in America? A story from the Gasconade County Republican newspaper tells me that it is too dangerous to feed feral cats unless you take precautions. However, I’m confused because I know many thousands of volunteers feed feral cats as part of TNR programs. Rabies does not exist in the UK.

Kathy Brautigam and cat bite
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Kathy Brautigam and cat bite

Befriended cat

The story concerns a woman, Kathy Brautigam, who was doing a good deed on Wednesday, September 26, 2018. A cat came around her rural home. She knew the cat and she wanted to feed him.

As she had got to know the cat he rubbed against her legs as a sign of friendship. Normally she feed the cat at a distance but this time she placed a bowl of food down. The cat immediately bit her hand breaking the skin causing bleeding. Perhaps he got jumpy and instinctively bit.

Potential rabies

At this point Kathy had a big problem because she had been bitten by a stray cat and she had no idea about the health of the cat. In America there is rabies and some stray and feral cats get rabies. Rabies is transmitted by a bite and so potentially this woman had been infected with rabies which is fatal unless treated with a very expensive and painful series of vaccinations, very quickly.

And so Kathy caught the cat in a trap and she visited her doctor who gave her a tetanus shot. She then took the cat to her veterinarian, Dr Troy Hudnell. He said that you absolutely cannot tell whether a cat has rabies unless you cut the head off and do a biopsy on the brain. So he cut the head off the cat.

Kindness went wrong

Sadly an act of kindness by a woman towards a stray hungry cat ended up with the death of the cat. You can see the argument for this because rabies is very dangerous. However, it begs the question whether it is sensible to feed stray and feral cats. There must always be the potential to be bitten. Perhaps people should only feed feral cats in the US if they wear gloves. Is that what volunteers do when they manage TNR programs in America?

On this story, feeding a feral cat is both dangerous for the cat and the person doing the feeding. It is a highly problematic process.

Head lost in post

As it happens the story went from bad to worse. The head was sent off to a laboratory for testing but it got lost in the post. This meant that Kathy had to start a series of very painful and expensive vaccinations against rabies. She says that there are up to 50 injections administered around the site of the bite. The liquid entering her skin was excruciatingly painful she said.

The cat’s head was eventually found and his brain tested negative to rabies and so the vaccinations were stopped. I see a big problem here and I’d like to know how people in America deal with it.

Volunteers accept the risk

I’m sure that volunteers get scratched and bitten by feral cats all the time. I have to presume, therefore, that they do not believe that they might have rabies and trap the cat for him to be tested. They just carry on and keep the wound clean and take the risk. Is that what happens?

Source of story

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.
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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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1 Response

  1. M E King says:

    never ever nerver ever touch or put your hands close to any stray animal. Rabies does exist however there are usually warnings put out when any animal wild or domestic has tested positive.
    I psssssssstttttttttttt. any cat I am helping if it gets too close during feeding. Be realistic. These animals have probably known near starvation therefore food aggression is almost a given. I insist on boundaries. I have a very long semi truck snow brush and scraper that I use to push cans forward. Feral, stray cats are not dangerous unless you invade their personal space. This could have been avoided by insisting the cat move back while she sat the food bowl down. For the record mine sit quietly while I prepare the morning meal and wait until the bowls are put down for them.

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