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Ask the Doctor December 2013 Issue

Dear Doctor - Health precautions for lost cat

Letter to Tufts Veterinarians

Q Our cat, Dusty, recently escaped from our house, which is in a quiet suburban neighborhood. Dusty was missing for about ten hours before a neighbor spotted her in her backyard.

Obviously, we are very relieved to have our cat back home, but our question is this: Could she be in any medical danger from her brief jaunt outside our home? She is an indoor-only cat, and the only pet we live with currently. There is a feral colony about a block away, but we really have no idea if she interacted with those cats or not. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Linda Belham

A Dear Linda: The chance of your cat having picked up an illness is very small and she’s probably just fine. What are her greatest risks after an excursion outdoors? Remaining lost or getting hit by a car. Next most serious would be a fight with a cat, dog or wild animal. Last on the list would be catching a cold, fleas, ticks or internal parasites. All in the last category are easily treatable.

Since your cat didn’t suffer one of the major problems, give her plenty of love and attention and celebrate her return! If you’re unsure about the status of her health, take her (along with a stool sample) to your veterinarian for a thorough check over. However, the likelihood that she picked up an infection is very slim and I wouldn’t recommend you allocate a lot of time and resources on infectious disease testing. You should consider placement of a microchip identification implant if it seems likely your cat will escape again.
Michael Stone, DVM
Clinical Assistant Professor
Cummings School of Veterinary
Medicine at Tufts University

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