“We lost our sweet, sweet boy Jarvis last night,” Morgan Thompson wrote May 10 on Facebook.
The 1-year-old cat belonged to Thompson, her husband, Jarrod Thompson, and their three children, who live at Carbondale, 12 miles south of Topeka.
Thompson told The Capital-Journal she debated about whether she should put a post on Facebook telling of how Jarvis died May 9 from cytauxzoonosis, a tick-borne disease also known as Bobcat Fever.
“But, today I’ve seen three separate posts on Facebook about how bad the ticks are this year and decided it needed to be said,” she wrote in that Facebook post.
Thompson urged owners to put flea and tick collars on their cats, and to spray tick repellent in their yards.
Her post was accompanied by nine photos showing Jarvis.
“He tried so, so hard to hold on,” she wrote.
What makes ticks tick?
Ticks are spider-like arachnids that have eight legs and a round body, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Ticks live in grassy, brushy or wooded areas and on animals, including people, according to the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They attach themselves to their hosts and feed on their blood.
“It is widely believed that ticks drop down on you from trees, but that’s not true,” the NCBI website says. “Instead, they usually attach to you when you brush against them, often while walking through tall grass or shrubs. Dogs and outdoor cats commonly pick up ticks because they often walk through undergrowth and shrubs.”
When ticks find a host, they look for areas of soft skin, according to the NCBI.
“They don’t normally bite right away, and sometimes wander around the body for several hours,” its website says.
Once a tick has found a suitable place, it uses its mouth to cut through the host’s skin, inserts a feeding tube, which also serves as an anchor, then feeds on blood until it is full, the NCBS website says.
“If you don’t find the tick and remove it first, it will fall off on its own once it is full,” that site adds. “This usually happens after a few days, but it can sometimes take up to two weeks.”
Ticks survive the winter by living underground.
“As soon as it gets warmer than 8 degrees Celsius (about 46 degrees Fahrenheit), they become more active again and start looking for hosts to feed on – both animals and humans,” the NCBI website says. “Ticks are usually active from March to November – mostly in forests, meadows, parks and gardens. They prefer warm and moist places, and often seek out bushes and grass or spots near the edge of paths or in undergrowth.”
Most ticks die after becoming unable to find a host for their next feeding, the CDC says.
The longest a tick has lived in a researcher’s laboratory has been 27 years, including eight years without food, Newsweek reported last February.
How bad are the ticks this year?
Veterinarian John Neeck said he has already taken ticks off many animals he’s treated so far this spring at the Animal Clinic of North Topeka, 625 NW US-24 highway.
Neeck has also removed several ticks that got onto his own body this spring as he was simply “walking around my backyard,” he told The Capital-Journal on Tuesday.
“I would say that ticks are pretty bad this year, perhaps even worse than in previous years,” he said.
Neeck suggested owners protect their cats by acquiring a topical solution called Revolution Plus and applying it once a month to their skin.
He encouraged dog owners to feed their canines Nexgard, Simparica Trio or Credelio, all chewables that kill ticks and fleas for one month.
Owners may also provide their dogs or cats Seresto collars, which repel fleas and ticks for eight months, Neeck said.
“Stay protected,” he said. “Keep us and our pets healthy.”
The CDC suggests also using pesticides to help keep ticks out of residential yards.
It recommends that people hoping to keep ticks away mow their lawn frequently, remove furniture, mattresses or trash that might give ticks a place to hide and keep patios, decks and playground equipment away from trees and yard edges.
What diseases can ticks cause?
For those who find a tick attached to the skin of themselves or their pet, Neeck recommends removing the tick as quickly as possible using fine-tipped tweezers.
Grasp the tick as close as possible to the skin’s surface, then pull upward with steady, even pressure, he said. Once the tick has been removed, disinfect the wound with soap or water.
Exposure to ticks puts animals and humans at risk of becoming infected by various diseases, Neeck said.
The tick-borne diseases affecting dogs that worry him most are Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis, he said.
Among tick-transmitted diseases infecting cats, Neeck expressed particular concern about cytauzoonosis, also known as Bobcat Fever, which tends to be fatal.
“The disease is so deadly because symptoms will usually not present until at least 12 days after a tick bite, and the cat’s health declines so rapidly that they will typically die within two to three days after symptoms first appear,” says petmd.com.
“If the disease is caught in the very early stages, there is a treatment protocol that includes cat antibiotics and an antiprotozoal drug,” it adds. “Combined with intensive hospitalization, which could last two or more weeks, and fluid and nutrients through (intravenous therapy), the mortality rate has improved from above 90% to about 50% to 60%. However, the treatment is so expensive and hard on felines that many cat parents opt not to treat the disease. “
‘Protect your babies!’
Jarvis the cat had a history of good health, so members of the Thompson family were surprised to learn he’d gotten Bobcat Fever, Morgan Thompson said.
“He was a little lethargic over the weekend but just seemed tired,” she said on Facebook.
But Jarvis’ mental activity suddenly became “totally altered,” leaving him unable to walk or respond to members of his family, Thompson said.
The Thompsons took Jarvis to a local animal hospital, where employees determined through a blood test that he had Bobcat Fever.
“The chances of a tick attaching to an affected bobcat and then to my cat were extremely slim!” she added.
Cytauxzoonosis is a seasonal infection, with most cats becoming infected between March and September, says the website of Oklahoma State University.
“Usually there are two waves, with the first starting in March / April and ending in late June and the second wave between August and September,” it said.
By the time Jarvis got to the animal hospital, he was severely hypothermic, dehydrated and anemic, and had a very low white blood cell count, Thompson said.
The animal hospital’s employees did everything they could, but it was too late, she said.
Thompson said that by using Facebook to get the word out about what happened to Jarvis, she hoped to help other cat owners avoid experiencing the pain her family was feeling.
She stressed, “Protect your babies!”
Tim Hrenchir can be reached at email@example.com or 785-213-5934.