It is natural to be worried when your kids play with feral cats, particularly for their safety. Worse still, there is the stereotype that feral cats are aggressive and not healthy to keep around kids. How true is this really?
It is safe for your 10-year-olds to play with feral cats. Feral cats, especially the young kittens, are not as aggressive as they are famed. In most cases, they are only not as sociable as your typical house cats because they lack sufficient human contact. Feral cats also don’t pose a significant health risk to your little ones.
Feral cats if properly domesticated can turn out to be lovely home cats which your kids will love playing with. However, there are conditions and precautions you must take while transitioning a feral cat to a home pet. This will reasonably reduce the hazards that come with the interaction of your kids with feral cats.
Will Feral Cat Suffocate Your Kid?
Here is a famous myth associated with feral cats. Many parents are worried that a feral cat will “steal their baby’s breath”. This is unfounded. It is true that feral cats, particularly the young kittens upon socializing adequately and mastering human company, will love to cuddle your kid.
Nevertheless, they will not impede your kid’s breathing. Naturally, you would expect that if the cat inadvertently rests on your kid, there is the risk of accidental suffocation. However, this is not a standard trait of feral cats.
Such an ugly scenario can be avoided by providing a suitable and warm place where the cat can sleep away from your kid. Cats love to snuggle in large cat trees which will alleviate them when they are stressed. You can also reduce the chances of the cat accidentally hurting your kid by keeping the cat away your kid’s crib using special nets.
Do Feral Cats Pose a Considerable Health Risk to Your 10-year-old Kid?
Rabies is one infamous disease feral cats are dreaded for. However, the risk of a feral cat transferring rabies to your kid is low. Most times, the health risk of the feral cat depends on how long it has been outdoor (if it is an old wild cat or young kitten) and consequent lack of vaccination.
In the United States, TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) programs are greatly reducing such risks by vaccinating feral cats and cutting down the chances of rabies transmission. Nonetheless, you can identify a rabies-infected cat if it habitually foams in the mouth or is unusually violent. If proven to have rabies, quickly reach out to a wildlife specialists or the wildlife control department in your community.
Feral cats are also thought to be unfitting for the company of your kids because of tapeworm transmission. However, the chances of tapeworm infestation from feral cats are low. By maintaining good sanitary conditions like washing of hands, you downsize the possibilities of your kids getting infected when they play with feral cats. Nevertheless, you should worry about scratches from a feral cat. This is because of the chances of cat scratch fever.
Let us delve deeper into common infections your kids can sustain from playing with feral cats and what you can do to mitigate the health risks.
Risk of Infection from Feral Cats
While cases of infection from these cats are rare, your kids are more vulnerable to contracting these infections if they touch the cat’s poo. This is why you should avoid your kids coming in contact with anything contaminated with cat poo. It could prove disastrous if your kids go on to touch their mouths (or feeding equipment) or even eat with these contaminated hands.
Such alarming scenario can be avoided if your family maintains a strict vaccination routine while ensuring to wash their hands regularly anytime they handle cat litter.
However, here are some of the prevalent diseases your kid can contract from interaction with these cats:
Toxoplasmosis: You shouldn’t bother about the dangers of this infection as it is typically harmless to your little kids if they are very healthy. However, should your kid have a history of weakened immune systems, toxoplasmosis can prove harmful. This also applies to pregnant women.
Toxocariasis – Compared to toxoplasmosis, this infection is not rampant. Most times, toxocariasis stems from roundworm parasites.
Cat scratch fever: This is one of the most notorious cat infections and can result in swollen lymph glands if not treated adequately. We will be touching more on it subsequently.
For these mentioned infections, you can reduce their incidence if you make sure your cat doesn’t come in contact with your kid’s food and their feeding utensils. Also, try to keep your kids’ toys from the reach of the cat. Reciprocally, ensure that your kids don’t frequently contact the cat’s foods, its toys, or general equipment. This will commendably downsize the risk of your kids getting infected by the cat.
What Should You Know about Cat Scratch Fever?
Just like your regular home cats, feral cats can pass on cat scratch fever to your kids. This fever occurs when your kid suffers a cut on its skin typically from a cat scratch. Let me remind you here that not every cat scratch results in this fever. How can you tell if your kid already has the cat scratch fever?
Some telling symptoms suggest your kid has caught the disease. In most cases, when you notice a lump on the skin region where the cat scratched your kid, you would be wary of the fever. Also, your kid could manifest heightened temperature levels, typically above 38 Celsius. In other instances, you will notice that your child gets easily fatigued even from minor activities.
In advanced stages of the cat scratch fever, you will notice sores in your kid’s groin areas or their armpits. It is advisable to see a medical practitioner if the condition perseveres after administering antibiotics to your kid. Commonly, kids with vibrant immunity readily overcome the cat scratch fever.
How Can You Reduce the Chances of Cat Scratch Fever?
Here again, good sanitation is paramount. Make sure your home and the cat surroundings are clean. Your kids should cultivate the habit of washing their hands after playing with the cat; avoiding their litter or contact with their bowls and even litter tray. This will limit the danger of germ transmission.
More importantly, as the guardian, you should strive to be attentive when your kids interact with feral cats. If you notice any aggression on the part of the cat, quickly intervene. In case of accidental scratches from the cat or bites, ensure to wash the cut with warm water and soap promptly. Also, make sure to maintain a reasonable distance between the cat’s stuff and the dining table as well as your kitchen.
What Should You Do in the Event of Feral Cat Bites?
Cat bites are not uncommon from home cats and feral cats. It is essential to wash the injury as soon as possible with running water. This is because of the propensity of cats’ claws and teeth to carry germs. In a situation where your kid is bleeding heavily from the bite, prioritize the control of the bleeding first. You can gently place a clean pad on the cut with minimal application of pressure to the broken skin. It is ideal to seek professional medical attention promptly as well.
However, if the bleeding is trivial or there is no bleeding at all, washing the wound with soap and water will do. After this procedure, dry the wound and cover the wound surface with plaster to reduce the chance of infestation. There are also circumstances where the wound wouldn’t heal fast enough. Most likely, the injury has been infected. As further proof of this, your kid can develop a fever or some weird skin lesions can form on the broken skin. Quickly see a doctor.
How to Keep a Feral Cat Healthy
Upon successfully domesticating the cat, you can keep your kids safer by keeping the cat healthier. Good practices like trimming the claw of the cat will reduce cases of accidental scratches. Make sure that the cat’s vaccination routine is kept without failing. Also, try to control ticks and fleas. Your vet can further advise you on grooming the cat and also when your cat gets ill.
If you don’t want to tolerate feral cats, you can just stop feeding them. It is also not advisable to try to accommodate a colony of feral cats. Also, it is preferable to get attached to younger feral kittens. These are more adaptable and would socialize quickly with you and your kids.
Mike Zhang. Founder of FamilyLifeShare