Bobcat Fever: The Loss of a Good Feline Friend

Reader Contribution by Linda And Burt Crume
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Before Bunny Feet, our current vermin chaser and garden cat, there was Mac.

Mac was found scavenging for food at the local fast food drive-in and was brought to our old neighborhood by the owner of a sour little Dachshund that had chewed the pedal-rest off a Chickering baby grand piano. Mac didn’t stand a chance of relaxing there, so he was given to another neighbor. 

The second neighbor had a large yellow lab (sweet guy) and five miniature Dachshunds. Mac spent most nights and much of the day time locked up in a laundry room because one of the dogs didn’t like cats. Mac was fed plenty there, but he didn’t like being alone so much, and he also didn’t care for the name he had been given (Snickers).

Since our yard was larger than others on the street, I was spending a lot more time outside than the other neighbors, and when Mac/Snickers was outside he began hanging out with me. When the neighbors let him out to roam, Mac always came to our patio doors and clicked his nails on the glass until we let him in. When I was in the yard he would lay several feet out of the way of whatever I was doing, but he was always near. 

After retrieving Mac from our house a few times, the neighbors showed up with Mac’s food, a few toys, and his bed. Mac never looked back. He became my shadow and companion no matter where I was or what I was doing. He tolerated my wife and even seemed to like her at times, but he was my cat…according to Mac, and who else mattered?

We moved from the neighborhood and busy street to 3-plus acres at the end of a gravel road on property jutting out into a 600-plus acre lake.  No traffic here to worry with. Mac at first growled at fishermen floating by our property, but when he decided that the fishermen were not a threat to us, Mac would just lay on a bench and watch them float by.

Mac had no threats here other than the occasional bald eagles and maybe some owls. However, Mac was living the good life and now weighed 15 pounds, which made him a bit large when compared to other food sources for the birds. We had seen him chase foxes from the yard, and feral felines in the area didn’t stand a chance.

Mac’s veterinarian had warned us about Bobcat fever (Cytauxzoonfelis) during his annual checkups and had told us how deadly the disease was for domestic cats, but we figured the odds were good that Mac would not be infected. Besides, he had always been an outdoor cat. We hoped that our refuge at the end of the road would provide all the protection he needed.

Bobcat fever is a blood parasite. Bobcats are hosts to the parasite. When a tick bites the bobcat, the tick ingests the parasite. Then, when the tick bites a cat, the parasite is transmitted to the cat. Bobcats carry the disease but do not get it.  Humans and canines are not affected by the fever…only domestic cats are in danger. For many years, the disease killed almost every domestic cat that was infected. Although progress is being made with treatment options, bobcat fever is deadly in more than half the cases diagnosed.

We noticed on a Thursday evening that Mac seemed lethargic, so we took him to the vet Friday morning.  She said she would run tests and let us know.  On Friday we got the news that Mac had been infected, and our vet said she would try to save him. On Saturday morning we got the call that we should come in to see Mac for the last time.

Mac died while we held him.  We had him cremated and his ashes sit behind his picture on our mantel. He was a good hunter, a good protector, and a good friend. It still hurts when we think of him and we still miss him…no disrespect to Bunny Feet, our new yard watch cat.

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