Clark County State Veterinarian Office Letter

Dear Members of the Clark County Commission,
On behalf of the State Veterinarians Office I would like to submit the following
comments pertaining to the proposed addition of Chapter 10.06 amending Title 10 of the
Clark County Code.
Establishment of Feral Cat Colonies as proposed in 10.06.020 and thereafter pose several
obvious problems such as noise, urine spraying and defecation, wildlife predation
(particularly birds) but also attraction of larger predators that feed on the cats in the
clowder. In addition to these obvious ‘environmental’ problems there is an inherent risk
of injury to people other than the colony care taker. Direct and indirect contact with feral
cats carries a risk of infectious diseases, both feline specific but also zoonotic diseases
which need to receive consideration when establishing such colonies.
Viruses such as Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV), Feline Panleukopenia Virus (FPV),
Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) are almost
always prevalent in feral cat colonies at significant levels. Cat owners in the area who let
their cats roam outside need to be made aware of the significantly enhanced contact and
infection risks for their feline companions.
However, far more significant is the zoonotic disease risk associated with the presence of
a large number of cats. Of the ‘high profile’ zoonotic disease associated with cats, rabies
must receive consideration. Rabies virus infects all mammals and the domestic animal
most commonly infected with rabies is the cat. Even though bat rabies is the only strain
currently known to exist in Nevada the potential for virus transmission to cats and from
cat to cat exists and is higher for feral cats than for domestic cats. Rabid cats are often
aggressive and could attack both animals and humans. Transmission of the rabies virus is
through transfer of body fluids (mostly saliva) to mucous membranes or wounds, mostly
through biting and scratching. In addition to rabies cats can also carry plague and
tularemia (these cases are rare and therefore particularly hazardous for the affected
person). Another disease transmissible to humans through scratching and biting is ‘Cat
Scratch Fever’, caused by the bacterium Bartonella henselae. Although usually not fatal,
treatment in humans is lengthy and lesions are painful.
Feline feces potentially carry a large number of pathogens. Of the bacterial pathogens
potentially transferred with cat feces Salmonella spp., Campylobacter spp., E. coli,
Yersinia enterocolitica and Heliobacter spp. cause disease (often severe) in humans.
Single cell intestinal parasites transferred in feline feces are Cryptosporidium spp.,
Giardia spp., and Toxoplasma gondii all of which can cause mild to severe disease in
humans depending on their age, underlying diseases (HIV/AIDS, organ transplantation
associated immuno-suppression or lack of antibodies) or gestational status (T. gondii can
lead to severe neonatal disease if immunologically naïve women are infected).
Cutaneous and visceral larva migrans are human infections with larvae from different
feline roundworms shed in feces. Theoretically development of infective larvae is
possible year round in the southern Nevada climate and would be greatly supported by
watered lawns but is also possible in xeroscaped and container gardens. The severity of
these infections varies between irritating and itching skin lesions (cutaneous larva
migrans) to severe and debilitating in cases of visceral larva migrans where the heart,
brain or eye (ocular larva migrans) are affected.
Cats prefer to deposit feces in loose materials such as garden soil (beds and pots alike) or
sand boxes. Residences neighboring feral cat colonies will have significantly increased
fecal contamination problems. Frequency of contact with feline feces will increase for
both children and adults in those neighborhoods.
For a more comprehensive list of zoonotic diseases transmissible from cats to humans
please see:
Please feel free to contact me should you need further information. I will be out of the
office during the week of September 1st. You can also contact Dr. Phil LaRussa, the State
Veterinarian at ext. 261.
Anette Rink, DVM, PhD
Laboratory Supervisor
Animal Disease and Food Safety Laboratory
350 Capitol Hill Avenue
Reno NV 89502-2923
Phone: (775) 688-1182, Ext. 232
Fax: (775) 688-1198