Feral Cats Dodge a Bullet in Southern California


It all started last week, when the Los Angeles Times reported that a child in Santa Ana, California, was hospitalized with murine typhus.

Although the kid had gotten sick the previous month and had long since recovered, and although Orange County Vector Control District officials had been providing educational materials to families that live in the area where the child had gotten infected, they decided that wasn’t good enough.

Murine typhus is transmitted by fleas, which are carried on a variety of animals including opossums, rats and mice, as well as on dogs and cats — so naturally, with all the possible vectors, the officials decided to pin the blame on feral cats.

Never mind that “several investigations of outbreaks of flea-borne typhus in Los Angeles County have demonstrated that pet ownership is a more significant risk factor than exposure to free-roaming cats," as Deborah L. Ackerman, an epidemiologist and member of the board of advisors of Stray Cat Alliance, said in a press release about O.C. Vector Control’s actions.

Vector Control did its thing and set traps for feral cats in colonies living in two schools near the infected child’s home. The plan was to capture the feral cats, collect fleas from them, treat them,and “put [them] in the normal rotation for adoption.”

We all know what “put in the normal rotation for adoption” means when it comes to feral cats.

Many cat advocates were less than impressed with the city’s scapegoating of the ferals.

O.C. Vector Control and the Santa Ana Police were inundated with calls from people who objected to the trapping. An online petition was launched, and a protest was planned for Saturday, June 2. Some people even went so far as to risk being caught on the school’s security cameras in order to trigger the traps before the cats could be rounded up.

But before the protest could be held, Santa Ana city officials announced that they had removed the traps.

It seemed they’d put down whatever they’d been smoking and realized there was no clear plan about how the cats were going to be handled — something that was pretty obvious to anyone who was following the story.

No cats were trapped, tested or euthanized during the several days the traps were on the campuses.

“We are changing our focus and attacking the real problem, which are the fleas,” said city spokesman Jose Gonzalez. “The main issue right now is to safeguard the community and reduce the risk of typhus.”

Thank goodness common sense has prevailed in the O.C. If common sense were as contagious as typhus, maybe there would be fewer ridiculous feral cat witch hunts.

Source: Los Angeles Times

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