VCA Mission Animal Referral and Emergency Center
Published: Jan 30, 2013

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Though you may treat your cat as though she were just another member of the family, it's important to remember that even domesticated felines can still occasionally tap into their "wild side." Any owner who has opened their back door to let their cat in only to find a dead mouse or bird on their stoop is likely aware of this fact. While it's not necessarily unhealthy for felines to hunt, a new study suggests that the tendency of cats to capture and kill prey could be damaging the environment, according to USA Today.

Cat hunting statistics
According to research published in the journal Nature Communications, the number of birds and small mammals killed by cats every year is much higher than previously thought. After analyzing data from a number of sources, researchers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that felines are responsible for the deaths of anywhere from 1.4 billion to 3.7 billion birds a year. Cats also kill as many as 20.7 billion mammals annually, including mice, shrews, rabbits and voles. It's not just feral or stray cats who are responsible for these deaths - researchers estimate that about 50 to 80 percent of domesticated outdoor cats are hunters, reports NPR.

Environmental implications
For those who dislike rodents or birds, hunting and killing small animals may not seem like cat behavior problems. However, with about one third of the 800 species of birds in the U.S. marked as endangered, the implications of this issue could be widespread.

"Our findings suggest that free-ranging cats cause substantially greater wildlife mortality than previously thought and are likely the single greatest source of anthropogenic [human-related] mortality for U.S. birds and mammals," Peter Marra of the Smithsonian's Conservation Biology Institute told USA Today. Cats may even be a greater threat to avian wildlife than wind turbines or glass windows.

What can pet owners do
Fortunately, there are ways that conscientious cat owners can help alleviate this problem. Neutering or spaying a cat is a good start, as this can help decrease the number of felines living in the U.S. Currently, there are many cats who wind up in adoption shelters or on the streets because they are unable to find a home.

If you have an outdoor cat, it may be wise to consider moving her indoors, at least for portions of the year. This will not only help cut down on her hunting habits, it can also prevent a number of health issues that are more common among felines that roam the great outdoors. According to the American Humane Society, there are a number of diseases and parasites that cats who spend time outdoors - particularly if they interact with feral cats - are more likely to contract. Feline Infectious Peritonitis is one such illness, as is FeLV.

If you are concerned that your pet has contracted an illness while roaming outdoors, it's essential that you bring her to the vet right away for a thorough checkup.


General Practice

We have over 600 animal hospitals in 41 states and 4 Canadian provinces that are staffed by more than 3,000 fully-qualified, dedicated and compassionate veterinarians, with more than 400 being board-certified specialists.

The nationwide VCA family of general practice hospitals give your pet the very best in medical care, providing a full range of general medical and surgical services as well as specialized treatments such as wellness, spay/neuter, advanced diagnostic services (MRI/CT Scan), internal medicine, oncology, ophthalmology, dermatology, cardiology, neurology, boarding, and grooming. Services may vary by location.

Our family of pet hospitals stands out by delivering the greatest resources in order provide the highest quality care available for your pets. By maintaining the highest standards of pet health care available anywhere, we emphasize prevention as well as healing. We provide continuing education programs to our doctors and staff and promote the open exchange of professional knowledge and expertise. And finally, we have established a consistent program of procedures and techniques, proven to be the most effective in keeping pets healthy.

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Emergency Care

VCA Mission Animal Referral and Emergency Center '" 913-722-5566

In a life-threatening emergency situation, take your pet to an emergency facility immediately. Heavy or difficult breathing, weakness or collapse, pain/vocalizing, seizures, protracted vomiting or diarrhea, and unresponsiveness are just a few signs that warrant immediate attention. If your pet has ingested a poison or medication not prescribed for it, call one of the emergency numbers below. You may be instructed to make your pet vomit. Do not induce vomiting unless instructed to by a veterinarian. Bring the poison or medication container with you.

ASPCA Poison Control '" 1-888-426-4435

Use caution when moving an injured, painful, distressed, or disoriented pet. A fearful or painful animal may bite, regardless of its normal temperament. Speak soothingly and calmly, move slowly, and wear gloves. Your pet should be moved as little as possible. An injured pet should be transported on a stretcher or board, or, in the case of smaller animals, a carrier or box with sturdy base. A muzzle may be useful if your pet is painful but should not be used if your pet is having difficulty breathing. Covering your pet with a blanket or towel may help prevent heat loss and may encourage calmness. Most importantly, stay calm and drive carefully.