'In February a 2-year old male cat was having lunch. It was an unusual treat of a pigeon that had died. Five days later the cat began to show a discharge from his nose, run a temperature, panting, and appeared to be depressed. This quickly worsened to convulsions and ataxia and died two days after the initial symptoms appeared. ' This article appeared in the Sep 3, 2004 CIDRAP [Center for Infectious Disease Research].
This story is not meant to scare you, it is meant to INFORM you. Based on the recent news release I do not believe any cases of this magnitude have shown up in the United States. But just because it is not here … yet, does not mean that we should ignore the possibility. When the above case was reported the World Health Organization said "cats had not previously been considered naturally unacceptable to flu viruses". This is the first study to report entire H5N1 genome sequences in a naturally infected domestic cat. Cats are companion animals and may live in very close contact with humans. Although no direct transmission of H5N1 from cats to humans has been reported, it is possible.
'At the end of February, 2006 a variation of the H5N1 virus was detected in a domestic cat found dead on the northern island of Ruegen, Germany. Serological studies in several Asian countries suggest that dogs may also contract the H5N1 infection. Countries in Europe have advised owners of pets living near H5N1 wild bird foci to keep cats indoors and dogs on a leash when taken for a walk. '
Now we come back to the 'here / now'! We must accept the fact that there is a threat! It is going to be more difficult on some of us cat owners than others. My two cats, for example, are declawed and do not go outside at all – so I am reasonably sure they are safe. But for those of you that allow your cat free access to the outside to roam and play (and chase those birds) you might want to exercise some extra caution for a time until this threat passes. It may have appeared cute in the past when your 'alpha cat' decided to bring home the bacon in the form of a dead bird and lay it in front of your favorite chair – that time has past. Now we must take some extra caution. Of course, in any circumstances of questionable behavior or possible illness, the vet is the best bet. Even a phone call to discuss the current circumstances will help rule out any possibility of a worse case scenario.