Feral cats pose a serious health threat to humans [Letter]

September 26, 2014

In late August, Richard Henry Lee Elementary School in Glen Burnie had to close its doors because a feral cat had found its way into the building. In closing the school, officials demonstrated prudent concern for the health and well-being of students.

Feral cat activists bemoaned the caution exercised by officials, charging that officials had reacted to the feral cat sighting with the severity of a bomb threat after a teacher caught a glimpse of the animal loose without a hall pass ("Anne Arundel's cruel cat policy," Sept. 4).

Yet school officials were wise to be cautious. They may have been familiar with a recently published Mayo Clinic study that found that 30 percent of patients with cat bites to the hand had to be hospitalized and that the average length of stay for these patients was 3.2 days.

The study's conclusion was short and to the point: "Cat bite injuries to the hand can progress to serious infection. The treatment of such infections often requires hospitalization, intravenous antibiotic therapy, and operative treatment. These findings should increase concern for a severe infection and warrant hospitalization and urgent consultation with a hand surgeon."

Put in even simpler terms, if one of those kids had been bitten by the feral cat, there was about a one in three chance the child would need to be hospitalized for more than three days, and a one in seven chance they would need two operations to quell the infection.

A cat bite is a potentially serious injury.

One might also note another group that is criticizing the caution exercised by officials to protect our children: Alley Cat Allies. This is the same group that is browbeating local officials to cease euthanizing feral cats, which now number up to 100 million in the U.S. They are calling for laws to maintain colonies of feral cats in communities like Glen Burnie.

The feral cat activists' "solution" — often referred to as TNR (Trap, Neuter and Release) — prolongs what are often miserable lives for the abandoned animals and does not reduce the population of feral cats, as claimed.

Feral cat colonies pose health risks to humans and cause the deaths of billions of birds and other wildlife every year. The American Bird Conservancy applauds local school officials for acting to protect the well-being of its students.

Grant Sizemore, Washington, D.C.

The writer is Cats Indoors Program coordinator for the American Bird Conservancy.

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