[From the Eureka Times-Standard, April 30, 2006]
Last week as
I performed my morning routine of feeding poultry and
horses, I found cats hovering over some small prey. Looking closer, I
noted the dark, leathery wing. I was looking at a dead bat, sheared
neatly in half.
First impulse was to separate the cats from further contact with the
dead bat. Waving them away with one hand, I grabbed a thick clump of
tall grass to use as a "pot holder", gingerly lifting the bat by the
tip of one wing. I dropped the carcass in a box, set the box in the
fridge, and proceeded to scrub up in hot, soapy water. Then I phoned
vet to ask, "What next?".
Brent Whitener, the Environmental Health Department's Vector Control
Officer, came out to collect the bat. Standing on our front walkway, he
educated us on the basic drill: To test for rabies, the lab must have a
complete and undamaged head, fresh enough that sufficient tissue
can be collected and cultured to give an accurate Yes/No verdict.
If the lab can't get enough undamaged tissue to work from, the bat is
presumed positive for rabies. I was hopeful - "my" bat seemed very
limbs that flexed easily. Brent gave me homework. While the lab tested
my bat, I was to check with the vet and see how current my eight cats
were on there vaccinations. Piece of cake, I thought...
Next morning, Brent called. "I'm coming out - we need to talk". The
bat's tissue was too damaged to test. Which of my cats had been exposed
to it, and how well vaccinated were they? I had the answers... Vermina
and Bulldog had been vaccinated for rabies, but were behind on their
boosters. And Hip-Hop had never been vaccinated for rabies at all!
I was instructed to immediately re-vaccinate all my animals for rabies,
and to place all three exposed cats in quarantine. 30 days each for
Vermina and Bulldog, 180 days for poor Hip-Hop! Three high-energy
felines, accustomed to free range of ten acres, suddenly confined to
2-foot plastic crates. They would remain there until we could provide
My husband had to leave for San Francisco. I stayed behind - I had a
major project to undertake. First, to dredge and clear stored goods
an upstairs bedroom, to prepare it for conversion to long-term
quarantine cattery. Then, to sit down and draw up plans for three
separate roomy but secure cat runs.
A friend spent a full day building Kitty Condo #1, five feet by twelve,
for Hip-Hop to occupy for his six-month incarceration. I spent all day
Friday and Saturday building the other two runs, six feet by 27 inches
by eight feet high. Sheet linoleum - earmarked for a kitchen upgrade -
was sacrificed to line cattery floors and walls. Cost of materials?
About $500. Loss of five days income? Rather not talk about it.
At least we can quarantine our cats at home - it'd cost a fortune to
quarantine them elsewhere, and they'd be mighty lonely. The experts
conclude that I myself have the most minimal chance of having made
contact with the bat. Otherwise, I'd need the series of rabies shots -
Perhaps you're like me. Perhaps you have a very busy life, but you're
pretty sure you take good care of your animals. I was pretty sure MY
cats were current with their vaccinations. Wrong! If a reminder card
form the vet arrived during a family crisis, I might say "Right - when
get back from the hospital/funeral/whatever, I'll take care of it right
away." And then something else came up...
When an animal comes into our lives, it is our responsibility to care
for all of its needs and comforts. They can't call the vet, make the
appointment, and drive themselves over. I failed to fulfill my
responsibility, and now my beloved cats must bear the consequences.
If I can spare you and your animal companions the distress our
has experienced, perhaps some good can come from all of this. In the
meantime, we and our cats have a long and suspenseful, 168-day wait
ahead of us...
Call your vet today. Find out if your pets are current with their
vaccinations. If they need boosters, make the appointment NOW.
[Elizabeth Berrien is a wire sculptor and wildlife artist. She and her
husband Nick Viesselman live in the Freshwater-Bayside are between
Eureka and Arcata].
Class Wire Sculpture
· Elizabeth Berrien (707) 445-4931 · email firstname.lastname@example.org
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