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Pet Health Articles
Lisa Medwid, a film producer in Los Angeles,
Calif., spends a lot of her time on the studio
reading scripts and taking meetings. But not
everything Medwid does on the lot is film
project-related. She also sets up cages in and
around sound stages so she can humanely trap
feral cats and have them sterilized before
returning them to their environment. "It's
frustrating, because no matter how many cats I
find and get to the vet, it seems like there is
always at least one litter of feral kittens
somewhere on the lot," Medwid says. "I've been
here more than 10 years and I've never seen
anything like this."
Medwid is not the only one who has noticed a sudden jump in the cat
population. Shelters and rescue groups across the country are seeing a drastic
increase in the number of litters being delivered to their doorsteps. While a few
different factors influence such population increases, many experts suspect
climate change is helping to fuel the kitty birthrate explosion.
According to Nancy Peterson of the Humane Society of the United States, the
feline breeding season is impacted by temperature. She says, "In warmer
climates, cats breed three times as opposed to two times a year. And as it gets
warmer, they could breed even four times a year."
What you can do:
Medwid's advice to pet owners? "Spay and neuter your animals! With feral cats,
it's pretty much out of our control, but if all pet owners would spay/neuter their
kittens, we could go a long way towards getting the cat population under
Unfortunately, feline birthrate changes are not the only way global warming may
be affecting our pets.
Fleas and Ticks
Few would disagree that fleas are a huge nuisance. But, you may not realize or
worry that fleas, as carriers of fatal diseases like the Plague, could potentially
become a serious health threat in the years to come. According to the Centers
for Disease Control, cats, which catch the Plague from fleas, can transmit the
disease to people. The Plague actually refers to a few different illnesses, the
infamous Bubonic Plague being one of them. All are bacterial infections
transmitted by parasites.
Other vector-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease (spread by ticks) and West
Nile Virus, are linked to the seasons. With warmer weather occurring over a
longer period of time, there is more opportunity for these diseases to spread.
Although incidents of the Plague have been limited predominantly to the
southwestern region of the country in recent years, a warmer climate could
cause that to change. A foreboding sign is that this has been one of the worst
years in recent history for fleas.
Andy Selfe, an equestrian in Warrenton, Va., who diligently administers flea
control products to her cat and dogs, says, "From May on, the fleas were
completely out of control. They were everywhere this summer and they got on
everything and everyone." In July, she was one day late in applying a flea
control product to her cat, Tom. Selfe says her pet became covered in fleas after
she held him for only a few minutes.
What you can do:
Be diligent about administering your cat's flea treatment on the proper schedule.
Do not allow your pet access to the outdoors, especially to wooded and tall
grass areas where ticks and fleas thrive.
During the warmer months, check your pet daily for ticks.
Take precautions, but don't go overboard. Peterson warns, "You should be
really careful when administering flea medication. Consult your vet so as not to
overdose your pet -- for example, by applying topical treatment, using a flea
collar, and then treating your home."
Exposure to Extreme Temperatures and Weather
One of the more bizarre effects of global warming is freak cold spells and colder
temperatures in some parts. According to Bonner Cohen, PhD, a senior fellow at
the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, D.C., "The climate
will warm up in some places and cool off in some places."
You may have also noticed an increase in hurricanes. For pets in areas prone
to these storms, the weather conditions can be deadly. And, of course, there
are the higher temperatures to contend with, which put your pet at greater risk
for developing heat stroke.
What you can do:
Keep your cat indoors at all times.
Never leave your pet exposed to the elements or inside the car in extreme
Always make sure your pet has access to plenty of water.
Make arrangements for your pet now in the event of a natural disaster.
The Good News
According to Cohen, "Cats exhibit remarkable success at weathering the various
changes the climate has gone through. They have been through three ice ages
and the global warming periods that followed." Global warming's full effect on
domesticated cats, however, remains an ongoing, worldwide experiment. With a
little precaution and care on your part, your cat has a much better chance of
weathering the changes.
Climate Change and Your Cat's Health
From the Editors of The Daily Cat