living with cats

Precautions to Take When You’re You’re Immunocompromised and Living With Cats

immunocompromised_patients_and_cats

Millions of Americans have conditions that compromise their immune system, including diabetes, kidney failure, HIV, autoimmune disease, organ transplants, and cancer. While some physicians still advise these patients to get rid of their cats, many studies have shown the value of pet ownership for immunocompromised people on both mental and physical health. By following simple, common sense guidelines, immunocompromised patients can minimize the risk of infection without having to give up their feline family members.

Possible risks

Diseases transmitted from animals to humans are called zoonoses. The most common diseases that may pose a threat to humans are intestinal infections caused by salmonella and Campylobacter or Cryptospiridium bacteria, cat scratch disease, which is caused by the Bartonella bacteria, and toxosplasmosis, which is caused by the Toxoplasma gondii parasite. Two fungal diseases, dermatomycosis (also called ringworm) and sporotrichosis, are also zoonotic and may cause infections of the skin in humans.

Simple precautions minimize risk of infection

The following guidelines will help protect immunocompromised individuals:

Always wash your hands with soap and warm water after handling your cat.

Practice safe food handling for all cat food, including dry and raw food. This means washing off all surfaces and utensils that touched the food, and not preparing any other food on the same surface until it has been thoroughly cleaned. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling cat food. If you feed your cat a raw meat diet, you do not have to discontinue this practice if you are immunocompromised. The majority of recent pet food recalls have been for DRY food contaminated with salmonella.

Litter boxes should be scooped daily. Have someone else perform this task. If that’s not an option, wear disposable gloves and wash your hands with soap and warm water afterwards.

Avoid handling cats who have diarrhea. If you must handle a cat with diarrhea, wear disposable gloves.

Avoid touching stray cats.

Keep your cat’s nails trimmed to avoid getting scratched. Do not declaw your cat: declawing is inhumane, and declawed cats may bite instead of scratching, which increases the risk of infection.

Make sure your cat gets regular veterinary check ups.

Following these precautions, and working in partnership with your veterinarian and your physician, will ensure that you can keep your cat through your illness.

This article was previously published on Answers.com and is republished with permission.

Living With Cat Allergies

living-with-cat-allergies

When someone is allergic to cats, the most common advice given by physicians is to get rid of the cat. Allergies are also one of the top five reasons why cats are returned to shelters. However, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, nearly 10 million people choose to share their homes with cats and dogs despite being allergic.Continue Reading

Cat Time

Guest post by Lucille Dumbrava

People who don’t have cats don’t understand when I talk about cat-time. They shake their heads and frown slightly and change the subject. But cat-time is a very real subject in our house.

First thing in the morning, I have a doctor’s appointment. It’s a half-hour drive; 15 minutes to wash the cat bowls and fill them with new food. It takes me 15 minutes to drink my tea and eat a breakfast bar, figure 30 minutes to dress, so for a nine o’clock appointment, I should set the alarm for 7:30, right? This is where cat-time comes in.

The alarm goes off, and I reach over to shut it off, Pansy takes advantage of my stretch to climb on my stomach and settle down for several minutes of ear scritchies. Her head turns from side to side, making sure I reach all her favorite areas. The other two wait patiently, but as soon as Pansy’s satisfied, either Smudge or Sassy claim my hand so they can get their morning loving.

Finally, I can get out of bed, and I put the pillows on a chair and begin to make the bed. I tug the sheets up and start to pull the blanket. It won’t budge. Smudge is at the bottom, tugging it with his teeth. We do this routine with the quilt too. Then as I fold the blanket that goes across the foot of the bed, he disappears inside the folds. Suddenly, this light decorative blanket weighs 15 pounds and is wiggling. I lift it by one corner and he comes tumbling out and runs away. By now, I am running 20 minutes into cat-time late.

As I head to the kitchen to make breakfast, the three cats do the shark dance, weaving in and out between and around my legs. They stand in front of the cabinet where the canned food is kept. After I choose the can, they scamper around the kitchen following my every move. I empty what’s left of the night bowls, wash the bowls and dry them, then share the contents of the can among them. Then I empty, wash, and fill the water bowl and check the shared kibble bowl to see if I need to add more. As I work, each cat comes and bumps my hand, hoping for one of their special treats. Fat chance!

Once the cats are busy eating, I prepare my tea, and pull out a granola bar. Whose priorities are skewed?

I planned ahead last night and laid out the clothes I’m going to wear, so I start to dress. Wait. Where did my other stocking go? I peek around the corner and see Pansy walking across the floor, the stocking clenched in her teeth and trailing behind. Sassy has noticed and is ready to pounce. I grab the stocking and Pansy gives me her tragically disappointed look. Too bad. A quick check, and the stocking goes in the trash – a run goes from toe to top. After getting a new one, I go back to dressing. I’ve chosen a particularly pretty black skirt with roses for today. It reaches almost to my ankles as all of my skirts do, and as I pull it up, I suddenly feel fur brushing my leg. Smudge is underneath it playing peek-a-boo, a game that’s fun when he hides under the bed or behind the curtains that cover the knee space in the bathroom. Not so much fun when I’m running late and trying to dress in a hurry.

After I distract him with a toy, I use the sticky roller to lift the cat fur off my skirt. And I’m nearly done. But, no. Smudge has run into the bedroom and lain partly on top of Pansy. Her indignant yowl tells me I better get in and check it out.

All that’s left is my makeup. This takes a while anyway. I mean, after all I’m trying to look good. Now the cats line up in the bathroom to watch and see what they can get into. The makeup’s in a drawer and, of course, that’s an irresistible attraction. The powder and blush are boring, but eye and lip pencils are like magnets for little paws, and lipstick tubes are just the right shape for rolling across the floor. Finally, I’m done, everything is back in the drawer and the drawer is tightly shut, much to the great disappointment of the cats.

A quick call to the doctor’s office and a white lie about a dead battery that needed to be jumped, and I am on my way – thirty minutes into cat-time.

© 2010 Lucille Dumbrava

Lucille Dumbrava is a retired teacher/counselor whose love of cats and love of writing started when she was a child. Many of her stories about the cats in her life have been collected in a book entitled Cat House, now available from Amazon, Alibris , http://www.bookstandpublishing.com, and Northern California bookstores. You can also order directly from Lucille by e-mailing her.