Ferals need medical care too! Get answers to your veterinary questions for free-roaming cats from feral cat expert Dr. Gordon Stull.
Dear Dr. Stull,
There are a lot of ferals in my neighborhood and I plan on getting them all neutered, but it's going to take time. Someone told me that once a male cat is fixed, the toms that are still intact will gang up on the neutered one. Is that true? I hate to think about a cat getting picked on just because he went to the vet first!
Generally cat fighting involves inter-male aggression regarding fighting over potential mates. Neutered male cats are not likey to be involved in fighting as they are no longer seen (or smell like) a threat to other males.
Dear Dr. Stull,
A couple of my young ferals (already neutered and eartipped) have runny noses and weepy eyes. Is there a way to treat them for URI without re-trapping them? I don't want to stress them needlessly. But I also don't want a whole colony of sick cats. Help!
Upper respiratory infections are very common in unvaccinated outdoor cats. Those that have been infected since birth are especially hard to treat due to the intermittent chronic nature of the illness. Most often these respiratory infections involve Herpes or Calicivirus infections which generally don't respond well to antibiotic therapy (although putting liquid antibiotic into the food sometimes does help treat secondary bacterial invaders if the food dish for infected individual(s) can be kept separate from others. Another method of controlling chronic URI and especially chronic intermittent Herpes infections involves putting L-lysine (an inexpensive amino acid supplement) into the food for either the infected individual or even the whole colony, as L-lysine has been shown to interfere with Herpes virus replication. It has been my experience that although chronic URI can be a persistent and serious problem for feral cat colonies, neutered individuals seem to be much healthier than sexually intact individuals (possibly because stress over mating factors are eliminated) and seem to suffer a much lower incidence and shorter duration of URI infections.
Neighborhood Cats board member Dr. Gordon Stull, DVM, is Director of the Burlington County Feral Cat Initiative (BCCI) in New Jersey, veterinarian for the Burlington County Shelter and President of Millenium Wildlife Services. Dr. Stull is also in the forefront of research to humanely manage black bear populations through targeted chemical sterilization.
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