Bobcat Fever is deadly to bobcats, cougars, mountain lions, Florida panthers, tigers and domestic cats

What is Bobcat Fever?

Deadly Cat Disease:

Effective Treatment for Bobcat Fever


ScienceDaily (Apr. 18, 2012) — Lone Star ticks, which are notorious carriers of many diseases including cytauxzoonosis, or “bobcat fever,” have been spreading across the nation in recent years. As a result, cats across much of the country are now exposed to the deadly disease. University of Missouri veterinarian Leah Cohn, a small animal disease expert, and Adam Birkenheuer from North Carolina State University, have found an effective treatment for the dangerous disease.

Bobcat Fever is deadly to bobcats, cougars, mountain lions, Florida panthers, tigers and domestic cats
Bobcat Fever is deadly to bobcats, cougars, mountain lions, Florida panthers, tigers and domestic cats

“Previous treatment methods have only been able to save less than 25 percent of infected cats, but our method, which is now being used by veterinarians across the country, has been shown to save about 60 percent of infected cats,” Cohn said. “While that number isn’t as high as we’d like due to the deadly nature of the disease, our method is the first truly effective way to combat the disease.”


Routinely carried by bobcats and mountain lions, Cohn and Birkenheuer also found that bobcat fever can even infect tigers. All types of cats, but only cats, can catch bobcat fever. Cohn calls the disease the “Ebola virus for cats,” saying that it is a very quick and painful death for cats that succumb from the infection. Bobcat fever is easily spread between cats through tick bites, but Cohn and Birkenheuer found that the disease is not readily passed down through birth like malaria and many other protozoan diseases.

“Bobcat fever affects healthy outdoor cats the most, because they are the most likely to get bitten by ticks,” Cohn said. “The disease acts very quickly and can kill a cat less than a week after it begins to show signs of being sick, so it is important to get treatment from a veterinarian as soon as the cat appears ill.”

Cohn says the best way for cat owners to prevent their cats from catching bobcat fever is to keep them indoors as much as possible. Early symptoms of the disease include sluggishness and refusal to eat. Pet owners who also have dogs should use tick collars, because while dogs are not susceptible to the disease, they can bring infected ticks into contact with house cats. Cohn says tick preventatives for cats also can help, but owners should be sure to check with their veterinarians to make sure they use cat-specific products, as tick collars for dogs can be harmful to cats.

Cohn says her future research involves creating a vaccine to protect cats against bobcat fever. Her work has been published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, theJournal of Veterinary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, and theJournal of Veterinary Parasitology.


The above story is reprinted from materials provided by University of Missouri-Columbia.


Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

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  1. Thank-you all – and especially Brandy for this important info. I will be moving to a very rural/ woody area in Tennessee in the next several months and have worried about this disease with my sweet-boy kitty. I will make sure to pre-visit the new vet to find out if he has this medicine on hand as a precautionary measure – that and anti-venin as there are numbers of poisonous snakes in the area as well, and my boy is quit the fearless, little hunter. I know that bobcat fever is in the area, having just talked with someone near where I will be moving who lost two cats to the disease. Thanks again to all.

  2. Wish I had know about this earlier…. I just lost my beloved Stormy to Bobcat Fever, and I am missing another cat, Patches,that I've had for 8 years. I fear may have also met the same fate as she has been gone for over 2 weeks.

  3. Batman, my beautiful flame point kitten was stricken with this dreadful unexpected disease and was put to sleep today. It happened very fast. He had 16.2 temp, and then the rest of the symptoms developed. Heartwrenching. My heart goes out to all the familys of the felines who have succumbed to this disease. I live in the middle of nowhere. Now am worried of my other cats. I am going to have them checked out and get the collars. I heard they are approx. 60 bucks apiece.

  4. Thank you so much for posting. My cat is in the hospital now with bobcat fever. she started showing signs last Thursday, I took her to the vet on Sunday and she as been on an IV with medication since then. I noticed that you said after day 6 your kitty was feeling better, I am hoping of for the same. Thank you again for sharing.

    Nashville, TN

  5. Very good of you to offer details & cautions to others, including myself. I plan on doubling up my fur checks on my pet. Again, my thoughts are with you.

  6. My kitten was never allowed outside and was still infected by this disease. No cat is safe. You can keep them indoors, but they are still in danger. Ticks can flatten themselves and slide through tight spaces to get inside your home. We have bought tick powder for our carpet and are going to purchase tick spray to put around the front door frame and window sills.

    I am in fear for my other cat's life now that I know that cats aren't safe inside either. We were not offered any kind of anti-malaria pill. Our kitten was in the final stages of hypothermia and only had about a day left to live according to the vet. We were told that the only options were either $2000 worth of blood transfusions or euthanization, so we decided to put her down and end her suffering given that her chances of survival would have been less than 40%.

    The vet clinic we went to is currently trying to create a vaccine to prevent this disease altogether which is fantastic, but I am having a very difficult time with our loss. I want my sweet baby back. She didn't even make it to her first birthday.

  7. Having already lost our 2-year old male tabby last May and my neighbor losing her 1 year-old male tabby two weeks ago to Bobcat Fever, I feel compelled to share with my fellow cat lovers/owners the success story we have just personally experienced. Last year when our male tabby came down with Bobcat Fever, it was then considered by my vet a “rare” condition. Today, we are only in the first months of spring 2013 and this “rare” condition has now become more of a common occurrence…at least it has in my neighborhood. Bobcat Fever comes from a tick bite that is transferred from bobcats to felines. I want to send out a warning right off the bat. Frontline and other topicals WILL NOT protect your cat from this disease. Once the tick bites…your cat is in serious trouble and once the symptoms start it usually takes the cat’s life within 3 days. As of last year the survival rate was slim to none. So, basically it was a death sentence. Today, they have developed a new anti-malaria drug that gives the cat a 60% chance to survive.

    Two weeks ago my neighbor’s cat came down with the disease. She spent $2400 dollars to hospitalize him where they gave him this new drug intravenously. He lasted about 2 days and then he was gone. The very same day her cat died, I walked into my house and saw that my 7 month-old kitten was not feeling well so I took him to the vet and…you guessed it…Bobcat Fever. They gave me two options: 1) hospitalize him. 2) take him home with pills. I chose option number 2, and that is why I am writing to all of you about this. It’s been 2 weeks since my little guy came down with the disease and today he is 100% back to normal…running and playing outside. He came back from hell and I want to share with you all how we did it so that if you find yourself in this situation, you may have a good chance of saving your cat’s life.

    I believe that comfort is a big part of the healing process and that was one reason we chose to get the pills and bring our cat home to nurse him. That, and the fact that the pills are a fraction of the cost of hospitalization. I figured my little guy would have a better chance to survive if he was “home” and surrounded by his “pack.” He was very weak, he had a 105 temperature, the third eyes were very prominent and he would not eat or drink. We gave him the anti-malaria medication orally every eight hours, which is essentially three times a day, and the liquid antibiotic once a day. We had to open up the capsule and pour the bright yellow powder onto a piece of paper and divide it in two as he was only to receive half the does at a time…so, basically it was 1 and ½ pills a day. As you can imagine, trying to administer a drug orally to your cat is a frightening thought, but we came down with a system that made it possible and even a little endurable. So here is how we did this on a day-to-day basis.

    At 8:30 AM I would open the capsule and divide the yellow powder into halves on a piece of paper with a credit card. I would take one half and pour it into a syringe and add about 2 to 3 milligrams of water to get fluids in him. Now here is the trick on how to administer it orally…and I have a nice collection of claw marks on my shoulder because it took me a couple of days to figure this out. Wrap your cat in a towel so that his arms and legs are pinned inside. If you don’t do this, your cat will fight like hell and it will be a nightmare for the both of you. Once you have him wrapped tight, hold him by the back of the neck like a mother cat does and quickly shoot the contents of the syringe into his mouth. It may take you a few attempts to get it all down his throat due to his thrashing around, but be patient and make sure it all goes down. I would do this again at 4:30 PM, but instead I would mix the medication with either kitten milk or chicken broth so as to make sure he was also getting some nutrition. For the last dose at 12:30 AM I would give it to him again with water. In between all this you have to administer the liquid antibiotic and that is one milligram once a day and I would do this around 11:30 AM. It’s much less fluid and therefor easier to administer. So that is the medication schedule we had. Now let me tell you what else we did that I am confident made a difference in his recovery. I talked to him a lot. Some of you out there may not believe that your pets understand you when you talk to them, but I am here to tell you…they absolutely do. Make no mistake about it. I told him to fight with all his might and that I would be right there fighting with him. I told him how we all loved him and couldn’t wait until he made a full recovery. I would also hold him in my arms and walk him around outside in the yard for about 15 to 20 minutes each day so that he could get the fresh air in his lungs and see all the things outside that he so loves. I would show him the trees and tell him how soon he would be out climbing them again. On the sixth day of this regimen his fever came way down and by that next morning he ate and drank on his own. By the next day he was asking to be fed on a regular basis. This anti-malaria treatment is for two weeks and if your cat gets through the first week, the second week is much easier because you can just put the yellow powder in some wet food and your cat will do the rest.

    Last, but certainly not least, there is one product on the market that will prevent ticks from biting your cat thus avoiding the situation all together. It just came out in January of this year and it is called the Seresto tick collar, and it lasts for 8 months. You can get it from your vet or at most pet stores. So far, my cats have not had any more tick problems and the vets confirm that they use it with the same results. So, whether your cat stays inside or goes outside, do yourself a huge favor and get a Seresto tick collar. It may very well save you from this long and arduous experience.

    Brandy Reed
    Bellevue, TN

    1. Thank you Randy. I just lost my beloved Callie to this horrible nightmare, but I don't want my Sweetie to have to suffer with it and lose her, too. I will definitely get the Seresto tick collar. Thank you, again, for your helpful info.

    2. I’m so thankful to find your post Brandy! Arliss started showing signs on Memorial Day or the day before and was diagnosed Friday and given a 5% chance to live. I went to put him down and he was walking around and acting fine, so I just couldn’t do it! I cried for hours on end. I told a friend in FL about it and by that evening she called me in OK with her vet on the line telling me to demand the medication from my vet. The vet had told me there was no way to get the anti-malaria drug outside of hospitalizing him for $3,000 and still a 5% chance. I called my vet back and told her the drug was on line, but needed a prescription. She was curious and researched it and was thrilled to see what she had been told all this time from OSU was not right! She immediately called in a prescription and ave me Sub-Q fluids to administer at home! I’ve tried to feed him turkey baby food with a syringe, but it makes him sick. Also, the FL vet told me to give him Red Cell at 1/2-1 cc/day to get his red blood cell count up. I also put I’ve packs on him to keep the fever down. I bought some gel vitamins also and he seems to be able to keep that and the Red Cell down. I’ve done what you said and have him outside in the swing listening to the birds and getting fresh air and even though he’s weak and sleepy, he moves his ears to the outside noises – SO much better than being in a cold, dark, quiet room like he’s been the last several days. We’re only a couple of days on the medication, but on the 7-8 day of sickness, so I’m sure hoping he has a good chance! His kidneys are still working and he pees, so that’s encouraging! I’m mostly worried about him not eating and don’t know what to do since he gets sick every time I try. I’ve even tried chicken broth and I sure don’t want him throwing up his medicine.

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