Veterinarians in states such as Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee are warning pet owners this spring of a deadly parasite that's killing cats.
Its scientific name is Cytauxzoon felis, but it's commonly referred to as Bobcat Fever.
It's called that because bobcats (as well as mountain lions) are said to be natural carriers of the parasite, according to a 2012 article from the University of Missouri. The disease spreads through tick bites, and it mainly affects domestic cats that spend most of their time outside, though it can also infect tigers, the report said.
Leah Cohn, a small-animal disease expert with the University of Missouri, once called it the "Ebola virus for cats," because it can kill cats in a matter of days.
Jessica Willis, a pet owner in Harrison, Arkansas, recently told KY3 that her 1-year-old male cat, Chip, died after getting the disease. She said he wasn't acting like his normal self and wasn't eating or drinking before he died. The animal clinic that treated Chip said it tends to see at least two cases per week during the spring and summer months. It can be diagnosed with a blood test.
Near Memphis, Tennessee, another veterinarian told WREG earlier this month that specifically the Lone Star tick and American dog tick can transmit the disease to cats. The disease affects only cats — not dogs or humans.
Signs and symptoms of Bobcat Fever include lethargy, lack of appetite, high temperature and dehydration.
But as the Germantown Parkway Animal Hospital in Tennessee told WREG, cat owners typically don't see the signs until 12 to 15 days after the cat has been infected.
Reports of cats dying recently from Bobcat Fever have also come from Oklahoma, according to KFOR, a television station in Oklahoma City.
The survival rate is low, veterinarians say, but they say the earlier a cat owner can detect it and get treatment, the better the chance is of survival for the cat.
Since there isn't a vaccine for Bobcat Fever, veterinary clinics say the best thing you can do is keep your cat indoors as often as possible. Flea and tick repellent can also help keep a cat from getting infected.
Otherwise, cats that get Bobcat Fever are typically treated with medication. Other treatments include giving the cat intravenous fluids, blood transfusions and nutritional support, according to an article from Pet Health Network.