"Cats are, like some other of the domesticated animals, liable to be attacked by two kinds of Catarrhal Fever, one of which is undoubtedly very infectious - like distemper in dogs - and the other may be looked upon as the result of a simple cold, and therefore not transmissible. The first is, of course, the most severe and fatal, and often prevails most extensively, affecting cats generally over wide areas, sometimes entire continents being invaded by it. From a.d. 1414 up to 1832 no fewer than nineteen widespread outbreaks of this kind have been recorded. The most notable of these was in 1796, when the cats in England and
Holland were generally attacked by the disease, and in the following year when it had spread over Europe and extended to America; in 1803, it again appeared in this country and over a large part of the European continent.
"The symptoms are intense fever, prostration, vomiting, diarrhoea, sneezing, cough, and profuse discharge from the nose and eyes. Sometimes the parotid glands are swollen, as in human mumps. Dr. Darwin, of Derby, uncle to Charles Darwin, thought it was a kind of mumps, and therefore designated it Parotitis felina.
"The treatment consists in careful nursing and cleanliness, keeping the animal moderately warm and comfortable. The disease rapidly produces intense debility, and therefore the strength should be maintained from the very commencement by frequent small doses of strong beef-tea, into which one grain of quinine has been introduced twice a day, a small quantity of port wine (from half to one teaspoonful) according to the size of the cat, and the state of debility. If there is no diarrhoea, but constipation, a small dose of castor oil or syrup of buckthorn should be given. Solid food should not be allowed until convalescence has set in. Isolation, with regard to other cats, and disinfection, should be attended to.
"Simple Catarrh demands similar treatment. Warmth, cleanliness, broth, and beef tea, are the chief items of treatment, with a dose of castor oil if constipation is present. If the discharge obstructs the nostrils it should be removed with a sponge, and these and the eyes may be bathed with a weak lotion of vinegar and water."
"As regards inoculation for distemper," Dr. Fleming says, "it has been tried, but the remedy is often worse than the disease, at least as bad as the natural disease. Vaccination has also been tried, but it is valueless. Probably inoculation with cultivated or modified virus would be found a good and safe preventative."
I was anxious to know about this, as inoculation used to be the practice with packs of hounds.
It will be observed that Dr. Fleming treats the distemper as a kind of influenza, and considers one of the most important things is to keep up the strength of the suffering animal. Other members of the R.C.V.S., whom I have consulted, have all given the same kind of advice, not only prescribing for the sick animal wine, but brandy, as a last resource, to arouse sinking vitality. Mr. George Cheverton, of High Street, Tunbridge Wells, who is very successful with animals and their diseases, thinks it best to treat them homoeopathically. The following is what he prescribes as efficacious for some of the most dire complaints with which cats are apt to be afflicted.