Ask the Vet

with Dr. Sam Simonelli
What is it like to bring in so many cats from a hoarding situation at once? What kinds of things do you need to look out for?
IMG_6207This time the call came in on Thanksgiving Eve. Another animal hoarding situation had been discovered and help was needed. MRFRS staff members and volunteers sprang into action to begin the long process of capturing, transporting, evaluating, and treating an overwhelming number of animals.
As was the case in this hoarding situation, the team deployed to the home is faced with the task of collecting frightened, often poorly socialized animals into carriers to be transported to the shelter. Usually, conditions in the home often require the team to wear personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks and coveralls. The air quality is poor. Urine and feces are found throughout the home. Dead or dying animals are found among the younger and healthier. The animals will try to hide, escape or could be aggressive to these strangers in their home.
IMG_1514Once the animals arrive at the shelter, they each must be examined and a treatment plan formulated. Identification is the first step. As we did with the Thanksgiving Eve cats, each animal is weighed, assigned a name or number, and has its photograph taken. A brief exam is then performed and basic information such as approximate age, sex, and body condition is gathered. Routine vaccinations and de-worming medication will be administered before each animal is set up in clean, dry housing with comfortable bedding and plenty of fresh food and water.
Due to the crowded and unclean living conditions, certain medical conditions are common in hoarded animals. External parasites, such as fleas and mites, as well as fungal infections, like ringworm, can lead to a variety of skin and ear irritations. Internal parasites such as tapeworms, coccidia, and giardia can lead to vomiting and diarrhea. Coughing, sneezing and eye problems are frequently seen due to bacterial or viral infections, and were definitely an issue with the Thanksgiving Eve cats. The vast majority of hoarded animals will be intact, so spaying and neutering them all takes another concerted effort by many.
Animal hoarding has tremendous impact not only on the animals, but on all of the people involved. Not every case will have a happy ending. Some animals may not survive to be adopted. Many hoarders go on to hoard again after intervention. With a lot of hard work by a lot of dedicated people, however, many of these animals can go on to live out happy lives in new families – just as they did in the Thanksgiving Eve hoarding case. For more information about animal hoarding, please visit

Happy Tails: Martha

IMG_1999 Martha was one of the many cats who came in to us on Thanksgiving Eve. Unfortunately, she was one of several kitties who needed to have an eye removed due to severe infection. She was fostered by a staff member from a local vet’s office, who decided this little fighter was too sweet to pass up.
Here’s an update from her awesome adopter, Kathie P.:
“Martha is doing wonderful. My older boys, Chili and Fivel, just love her and she loves them. She is full of energy and is really curious about everything. When she sits still long enough, she has a very loud purr. It quickly became apparent that she wasn’t going to remain a foster kitty, but had found her forever home.”
Her owner reports that the two older cats sometimes chase the resident dogs in order to protect their new little sister. Congratulations, Kathie, on your new addition!

Ask the Vet

with Dr. Samantha Simonelli

So you’re thinking about adopting a feline leukemia (FeLV) positive cat?  They can be a wonderful addition to your family, but there are a few things you should know:

  • Your cat needs to be kept indoors. This is good advice for most cats but especially important for immune-compromised cats to protect them from infection and parasites and also to prevent spread of the virus.
  • They don’t have to be the only pet. Due to the risk of contagion, FeLV -positive cats should only live with other FeLV-positive cats, but other species (like dogs!) cannot contract the virus and can safely live with FeLV-positive cats.
  • You should feed your cat a complete and balanced cat food. Avoid a raw diet, as this can potentially expose your cat to unnecessary bacteria and parasites.
  • It is best to have your cat examined twice a year by your vet. This way, you will be able to detect any problems early, when there may be more treatment options.
  • FeLV cats can live happily for a time, but the disease is eventually fatal, usually within 2-5 years. End-stage disease can manifest in a variety of ways such as anemia (low red blood cell count), kidney failure and certain types of cancer. You could see signs that include weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, decreased appetite, fever, eye infections and dental problems. Working together with your veterinarian, you can make the best health care decisions for your cat.

An FeLV-positive cat could be just the companion you have been looking for!  Ask your local shelter about meeting one today!

Happy Tails: Pork Chop

We regularly receive updates from our adopters, but this note about one of our FeLV cats really made our day!

Dear Staff of the Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society,

Pork ChopI just wanted to drop you a quick note about the cat we adopted this weekend, Pork Chop.

I attended [your Purricane] event with my two small children (age 2 and 4). I had stopped by the day before without the kids and had already narrowed the selection down to which kitties might be a good fit for our family. The kids had other ideas, though. It was incredibly hard to choose but after a significant amount of time we picked Pork Chop. Out of all of the wonderful kitties, he seemed to have an instant click with my 2 year old. He came out of the corner for the toddler, played with him and my daughter. Was very sweet and didn’t seem phased by the clumsy love showered upon him.
Being in a new home, of course Pork Chop dove to hide in the back of my closet. (Where else would a white kitty hide but nestled against the dark dry-clean-only clothing, right?) We settled him in and let him be.

Prince Joey5At 1am, I was awakened by my 4 year old and Pork Chop. Both had snuck into my bed and were snuggling, thick as thieves! As much as I try to supervise they are small, sneaky children. Sunday the two kids kept sneaking into my room to “check on the kitty”. I’ve caught them patting and showering clumsy love all over him. Pork Chop has been a saint. He’s gentle, tolerant, doesn’t scratch, bite or hiss. He actually really seems to enjoy all the attention. He’s even been brave enough to sneak out and do a lap around the downstairs level a couple of times to check out the dogs before scurrying back to the safety of the bedroom. He gave a compulsory hiss to one dog and the hairy eyeball to the other. So far, the dogs have just hung back to watch the show. (They’ve lived with cats before.) So I’m hopeful they will all eventually be buddies.

Prince Joey3
My daughter decided he was too pretty for “Pork Chop” and has re-named him “Prince Joey”. I actually think it suits him. When the kids are asleep, he seeks me out and I get my kitty love, too. He’s truly a sweet, loving kitty and I truly think fate had a hand Saturday as he wasn’t on my original list of candidates.
Prince Joey4A final note, I was distracted by cranky children when completing his paperwork so I didn’t realize until I got home and read through that he has basically been in one shelter or another since September 2014. Diagnosed as FeLV+, he might have been euthanized for healthier kitties if not for the wonderful volunteers of various organizations that have kept him alive and well for the last year. I had no idea he had been a shelter kitty for 12 months! And you’d never know it by his behavior. He’s just a doll.
This is the first animal we’ve adopted as a family. I’ve always tried to adopt the older animals or animals with special needs as they tend to get passed over. This was an important value that I wanted to instill in my children. Being FeLV+, I have no idea how long Prince Joey will be with us, but I can assure you, it will be a life filled with love and attention.


Alyson D.

Ask the Vet, with Dr. Nicole Breda of the Catmobile

Q. Why does my indoor-only cat need to see the vet every year? Isn’t that only necessary if your cat goes outside?
A. The truth is, all cats should have an annual “wellness” exam, and senior cats should be examined every six months to safeguard their health.
The most obvious reason to visit your veterinarian on a yearly basis is to ensure your cat’s vaccines are up to date. Rabies, distemper, and FELV vaccines are all vaccines you can discuss with your veterinarian—but it is the law to have a valid rabies vaccine for your cat. Even indoor-only cats can come in contact with rabid animals, like bats, that can enter your house. Vaccines also protect your cat if he/she escapes the house and comes in contact with a rabid animal, not to mention preventing complicated rabies quarantine protocols if your cat comes home with a wound after an adventure outside.
A yearly visit to your veterinarian not only ensures that your kitty is vaccinated against deadly diseases, but also that they are not developing any underlying diseases. An indoor cat is still susceptible to diseases like diabetes, renal failure, hyperthyroidism, heart disease, and painful dental disease, to name just a few. These diseases are all manageable if caught early in the process. Therefore, having a veterinarian examine your cat once yearly—and your senior (8+) cat examined every six months—may catch issues before they become serious or even life threatening.
Remember, cats live much shorter life spans than humans—so a lot of things can change with their health in just one year!
Have a question you’d like to ask our vet? Email your suggestions to and you just might see it in our next issue of Cat Currents!