Cytauxzoon felis is the hemoprotozoon organism which causes “Cytauxzoonosis”, commonly called “Bobcat Fever”. This disease is carried by bobcats, and can be transmitted to the house cat by a bite from the Lone Star Tick and the American Dog Tick. This disease was responsible for 1.5% of all feline hospital admissions at the Boren Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at Oklahoma State University from 1998-2006.* Since that time, we have continued to see a rapid increase in the numbers of cats affected, particularly in the spring and summer months.
Cats typically will fall ill 8-12 days after infection. They may show signs of fever, sometimes up to 105-107°F! Cats will be very lethargic and often will not eat. As the disease progresses, cats will become jaundiced, and their internal organs become swollen and very painful. Following these signs, their temperature will drop suddenly and they will become pale, with death occurring within 36 hours of the time they first become ill.
At this time, the best way we can diagnose these cats is by looking at their red blood cells under the microscope. Lab tests for the parasite’s DNA typically take more time to get results than the cat has to survive.
With no treatment, these cats will die. Unfortunately, even with treatment, survival is very rare. A new experimental treatment has shown a moderate increase in survival rates at specialty hospitals.
The only way to ensure your cat does not become infected with C. felis is to prevent tick bites. While there is nothing that will reduce this risk to zero in our area, cats who are indoor-only AND are treated with an effective tick prevention (we recommend Revolution PLUS or Nexgard COMBO) have the best chance of avoiding this horrible disease.
*Reichard MV, Baum KA, Cadenhead SC, Snider TA. Temporal occurrence and environmental risk factors associated with cytauxzoonosis in domestic cats. Vet Parasitol 2008;152(3-4):314-320.