Veterinary Viewpoints


Question #1: What is the substance in a cat's claws that is so deadly to birds? What is the appropriate medical treatment and how fast must one get a bird that has been scratched to a vet?

Answer #1: Pasteurella multicida is the bacteria that occurs in the cat's mouth and therefore on the cat's claw since a cat licks its claws regularly. This bacteria will get into the bloodstream of the bird when it is bitten or scratched and within 48 hours the bird can die from a bacterial septicemia (widespread infection) without any signs that it is sick until a couple of hours before it is dead! It does not happen with every contact, but I have seen it happen enough that I recommend when there is any contact between cat and bird, even if you cannot see a wound (often you cannot due to the feathers) that the bird be checked and started on antibiotics. My antibiotic of choice is pipercillin by injection. The sooner the bird can be started on the antibiotic, the more chance of controlling the bacteria before it overwhelms the system. I always consider this an emergency situation. Prevention is, however, best and avoiding any contact between cat and bird is always preferable by confining one to cage or room while the other is out.

Rhoda Stevenson, DVM, ABVP-Avian Jacksonville, Florida

Answer #2: Cats have a deadly bacteria living in their mouths called Pasteurella multicida. When they groom themselves, they spread this bacteria over the fur and claws. When they catch and scratch or bite a bird, they inoculate the wound with this bacteria. At the bird's higher body temperature, these bacteria will multiply


very quickly in the blood stream and cause the bird to become septic (systemically infected) and die very quickly. Even the presumption of exposure to cat saliva requires IMMEDIATE veterinary attention and treatment.

Rose Ann Fiskett, DVM, ABVP-Avian Fairfax, Virginia

Answer #3: Wounds inflicted by cats to birds have the potential of producing fatal infections. Pasteurella multicida is the primary bacteria isolated in these infections. Cat inflicted wounds should be examined hy a veterinarian as soon as possible. Cleansing of wounds and appropriate antimicrobials are in order and may prevent an infection from overwhelming the bird.

James M Harris, DVM Oakland, CA

Answer #4: The substance in a cat's claws that you mention is actually a bacteria called Pasteurella multicida. Cats are considered to be carriers of this bacteria and a bird that has been mouthed, scratched, or bitten by a bird should be considered exposed to the bacteria. The bacteria, once in the body of a bird, rapidly multiplies and can lead to a fatal septicemia (widespread infection in the body). Because of this, immediate veterinary attention for any bird bitten or scratched by a cat, is strongly recommended. Antibiotic therapy is the treat-


ment of choice for cat attacked hirds. Even then, I have through the years seen individual hirds that survived the initial attack by the cat, only to suecumh approximately three days later to the septicemia.

Amy B. Worell, DVM, ABVP-Avian West Hills, CA