Whole Dog Journal's Blog April 12, 2016

Dogs, Cats, and Bats, Oh My

Posted at 08:55AM - Comments: (10)

One evening more than a week ago, I’m sitting on the couch, sipping a glass of wine, engrossed in a Netflix movie, when my husband exclaims something from the kitchen – something that sounded like “cat” or was it “bat”?

“What?” I yell back.

He comes in grumbling about us having too many animals, and that there is a bat in the kitchen. Ducking reflexively, I may have shrieked, “Alive or dead?”

“I didn’t check its pulse,” he answered, deadpan. “The cat’s got it.”

Ugh, that’s a job for me, then. If the bat had flown or been found in the house without a feline or canine companion, I probably could have made a case for it being his job to deal with. But if it has to do with “my” cats or dogs, I’m up.

I like bats, and appreciate their mosquito-eating skills. But I like them in the sky, where they belong, not in my kitchen. Fortunately for me, not so much for the bat, this one was dead – and perhaps dead for a while. The cat who brought it in didn’t look very interested in it, and I couldn’t see any wounds or blood on it. I used a Ziploc bag to pick it up, sealed the bag, and washed my hands. I then looked the cat over for wounds or bites. I didn’t see any.

I was at my local animal shelter a month or so ago, picking up or dropping off one litter of foster puppies or another, when I overheard a discussion regarding rabid bats. My ears pricked up when I heard the name of the street I live on. Elbowing my way into the conversation, I learned that in the past two months, there have been two bats found in homes – both within blocks of my house – which were tested and found to have rabies. So, first thing the next morning, I called my local animal control officer, and asked what I should do. I was advised to bring the vaccination records for the cat, and the bat, to my local shelter; the bat would be tested by our county’s public health department for rabies.

I started looking through my animals’ health records, to check on all of their vaccinations. Wouldn’t you know it? Somehow, all the dogs, and the other cat, were perfectly current on their rabies vaccines. The cat in question, though, hadn’t had a rabies vaccine for three years – and she’s only had one. How had I screwed that up? (Well, there’s an answer; she was sick the last time I brought her and her brother to the vet; he was well and got vaccinated, and I was supposed to bring her back but had forgotten to do so. Bad owner!)

I called the officer back with this news about the cat’s rabies vaccination status, and was told to add my cat to the list of things I needed to bring to the shelter. Because her rabies vaccine was not current, she would have to be quarantined until the results of the bat came back – negative, we hoped.

My shelter was doing me a favor in quarantining the cat. Ordinarily, a person would have to board the cat at a veterinary office that provides quarantine services. But given that I’ve been fostering puppies for the shelter at my office/house (two blocks away from where I live) nearly nonstop since November, the shelter director said they would quarantine (and vaccinate) the cat for me.

The good news: The bat’s rabies test came back negative.

The bad news: My cat picked up a mild upper respiratory virus at the shelter.  When I picked her up and drove toward home, she sneezed nearly nonstop. I decided I would keep her at my office/house until she felt better, so she wouldn’t bring the virus home to her brother and my neighbor’s cats. (She spends a lot of time in my neighbor’s yard, which drives me crazy because she is fat from eating from the trough of cat food they keep outdoors. I have begged them to discourage her from hanging out over there, but they like her.)

Woody and cat napping together

Woody napping with my cat

When my cats were younger, I kept them at my office/house a lot. They actually got to the point where they would jump into my car with my dogs for my two-block commute, hang out with us all day, and then load up again for the evening commute home. But since we started renting out bedrooms to students attending a local trade school, and one student was allergic to cats, I stopped bringing the cats to work. Currently, I don’t have any of the rooms rented, and though it had been a few years since she had been here, my cat settled right down on the sofa and went to sleep.  

I had a litter box in the garage, from when my sister-in-law brought a neighbor and her cat to stay here during a forest fire evacuation last summer. I brought it out, filled it with fresh litter, and put it in the kitchen. I put food and water for the cat on the pass-through between the kitchen and the living/dining room, the best spot to keep the dogs from eating it.

We spent the day peacefully. The cat has smacked my puppy, Woody, a few times for being too curious or moving too quickly through a room in which the cat was sitting (she’s a harsh ruler), and though he was excited to see her after a few days apart, she raised her paw to him once and he settled right down again. They even napped on the loveseat in my office (it’s pretty much just for pets) in the afternoon. 

That evening, I was working at my computer when I heard a noise I couldn’t place. Then I identified it as the sound of the cat in the litter box. But the cat was still asleep on the loveseat. I looked around, counting heads. Woody was missing. “WOODY!”

Woody with catlitter on his nose

Woody with cat litter on his nose

He came ambling in from the kitchen – with cat litter stuck all over his nose. ACK!! My cats are indoor/outdoor cats, and they don’t ordinarily use a litter box, and even when I did have an indoor-only cat, I’ve never had a dog who snacked from a litter box! But now I do!

Because I’ve had so many foster puppies, I’ve invested heavily in exercise pens and baby gates. I can keep the litter box gated away from Woody, but accessible to my sneezy cat, until she’s well enough to go home again. I’ll just have to step over it a dozen times a day.

While my cat and I were super lucky that the bat wasn’t rabid, and cat-poop-snacking isn’t the worst behavior a dog can learn, I still really, really wish I hadn’t failed to keep one of my pets’ rabies vaccines current.  It all could have been avoided: the quarantine, the feline upper respiratory virus, the horror of coprophagia. Don’t be like me!


Comments (10)

No one is perfect. I so wish that I could foster and do some of your other many acts of kindness. The issue for fostering is that Sara has terrible anxiety and her doc told me "no other pets, she cannot handle it." So please don't be so hard on yourself and you are NOT a bad owner, you are a wonderful owner!

Posted by: Sara's Mom | April 26, 2016 12:24 PM    Report this comment

So glad your cat is on the mend. After attending many seminars on holistic pet care & taking my pets to an out of town holistic vet, I was under the impression that pets only needed 1 rabies shot during their younger years. I use titers if I feel the need to check my pets' immunitiy to diseases. Re. the cough your kitty picked up at the shelter: I also discovered that kennel cough vaccines don't guarantee immunity, esp if animal is boarded or kept in area with other animals. My cat developed a sneezy cough after I boarded her at a very nice place.

Posted by: angel 3161 | April 18, 2016 9:47 AM    Report this comment

There is an article with encouraging news about rabies and titer tests on animals who were overdue for a rabies vaccine. Immunity doesn't suddenly end after three years. The new guidelines, published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, recommend that cats and dogs exposed to rabies who are overdue for a vaccine be given a booster shot (re-vaccination) followed by an observation period rather than be quarantined or euthanized. You can find the article by searching on Dr. Mercola's healthy pets site. (Wish I could post the link!)

Posted by: powderhouse | April 12, 2016 3:38 PM    Report this comment

Please be careful stepping over gates! Having had lots of animals over the years,I have always stepped over. The last time I did, in January, I caught my foot on the doornframe, brought gate down on my leg, breaking it badly, both lower leg bones. Six weeks of no wei gh t bearing, requiring wheelchair, walker, and crutches, and six weeks in a boot, which is not over yet. OPEN THE GATE, DON'T GO OVER!
Your fur babies will thank you!

Posted by: bizeemom3 | April 12, 2016 2:53 PM    Report this comment

I'm lovin' Woody! What a wonderful puppy. Ahh bats....In NJ we lived in a log house in the woods and had plenty of bats around......they would hang upside down under the huge market umbrella that was on the deck......or hang on the logs of the house. The dogs would go crazy when they saw the bats and I was always afraid they would bring one in through the dog door. We were lucky there were no interactions and yes we were careful about keeping the vax current. Thank you for the heads up about what can happen when the vax is not current.

Posted by: Olivia | April 12, 2016 12:42 PM    Report this comment

This is a little off topic, but cats and poop came up in the thread. We have a major feral cat problem, so I'm researching how to stop it. A Coyote Roller Bar on top of the fence will prevent cats from going over. Can be used to keep cats in or out. You can also make a home made roller bar out of pvc pipes. To keep cats from using flower bed lay down chicken wire. Cut a hole for each plant.

Posted by: SundogsHawaii | April 12, 2016 12:37 PM    Report this comment

That picture of Woody is sooo funny! I love it. It makes me laugh outloud!

Posted by: carol323 | April 12, 2016 11:31 AM    Report this comment

While I greatly appreciate this post in many different ways, am a little surprised that the author, obviously an animal lover and advocate, lets her cat outdoors, rabid bats just being one of the many dangers a housecat can encounter outside.

Posted by: azdogmama | April 12, 2016 11:20 AM    Report this comment

We've successfully lived with a bat (bats?) for over 40 years in our Victorian farmhouse. There is always a pile of guano in the same spot in the attic, so even though we've never actually seen him/her/them, we know they must be nesting somewhere among the roof beams. We sweep in guano and it appears again in a day or so. It doesn't bother us and we leave it alone to eat its fill of mosquitoes!

Posted by: starlightwoods | April 12, 2016 10:44 AM    Report this comment

Shortly after I moved to my current home (that has a fenced back yard), I realized that the next door neighbor's cat was using an area with soft soil in my backyard as her bathroom. I have two dogs and happened to notice that my miniature Australian Shepherd Merlin was digging in that area and -- yes -- eating the cat poop. I did succeed in breaking him of that habit -- as long as I kept my eyes on him. Luckily, the problem resolved itself when I let the dogs out to do their potty, unaware that the cat was right there, pooping. A cat/dog altercation ensued, with no harm to either participant--the cat went over the fence after a few hisses and has not returned to my yard again! Eureka! (I really do like cats but Merlin doesn't).

Posted by: margeam | April 12, 2016 9:58 AM    Report this comment

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