Hundreds of pet cats have been diagnosed with bovine tuberculosis (bTB). The disease also infected a well-known lioness at Paignton Zoo. She probably got the disease from eating an infected cow carcass. Tragically, she was put down.
What is a bit shocking to me is that domestic cats have become infected with bovine tuberculosis through eating mice, rats and voles carrying the disease.
I had thought that this disease affected cattle and that it was allegedly spread by badgers, hence the large-scale badger cull which is currently taking place. Personally, by the way, I am very strongly against culling badgers. Sue Hayman, Labour’s shadow environment secretary disagrees with Michael Gove’s badger cull and says that it cannot be the answer.
However, it appears that this disease has taken hold in the country and that the government is failing to take control of it. It is spread mainly by farmers moving cattle with undiscovered infections between farms. The cattle give the disease to wild animals such as rodents, foxes, deer and badgers.
It is believed that rodents are the main cause of the transmission of the disease to domestic cats. Hundreds of feline cases have been reported to scientists at Edinburgh University, which is the main reporting centre in the UK.
It appears that hunting domestic cats are infected when bitten by rodents.
“Feline bTB is now a significant disease in cats in Great Britain” – report by Edinburgh University.
An airline pilot from Congleton, Cheshire, UK whose name is John Byrne, took his pedigree British Shorthair cat to his vet with a cough. He was told that the cat was suffering from bovine tuberculosis which was growing in his lungs.
The treatment costs a staggering £19,000! John Byrne was also tested for the disease and found not to be suffering from it.
However, the disease is zoonotic – transmittable from cat to human and vice versa. The Times tells us that in 2014 Jessica Livings caught the disease from her kitten. She was hospitalized. There was an outbreak in cats near Newbury, Berkshire apparently.
The disease can also affect dogs. Foxhounds are particularly vulnerable. Hounds at the Kimblewick Hunt’s kennels near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire were infected and 100 animals were euthanised.
These dogs were fed on raw meat and offal from cows slaughtered after falling ill on farms. Also hounds are moved between kennels for breeding which means the disease is also moved around. Zoo animals are at risk from eating uncooked meat.
The lioness, mentioned above, whose name was Indu, ate an infected carcass. There was no way that diseased wild animals could have broken into her cage.
Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs – Defra
In 2013 Defra’s chief scientist, Ian Boyd, predicted in the journal Nature that bovine tuberculosis would spill over to wild animals, pets, new livestock species and then potentially to people. His predictions have come true.
A spokeswoman for Michael Gove’s department said that ‘Bovine TB is the greatest animal health threat to the UK. We are taking strong action to eradicate it’.