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On The Prowl - News from our Chief Reporter Nick Mays

“Don’t Feed Cat” shock advice by RSPCA

CAT LOVER and bride-to-be Stacey Connor-Brown got a shock when she contacted the RSPCA for help and advice on how to deal with a stray cat that had produced a litter of kittens in her garden.

Initially, they refused to help and then suggested she stopped feeding the cat.
“I was appalled. I thought their answer was quite heartless,” said Miss Connor-Brown.

Stacey, of Cleveleys Avenue, Balderstone, Lancs, said: “I phoned the RSPCA helpline and explained that about 150 wedding guests would be descending on the garden in two weeks’ time for my wedding. We are having a marquee put up and with everything going on, it would be very distressing for the cat and kittens.

“The response of the RSPCA sickened me.”

Later, an official of the charity contacted Miss Connor-Brown, told her the advice she had been given was wrong and has apologised.

Stacey and her husband-to-be, Michael Espley, with their two-year-old daughter, Molly, are emigrating to Australia in August, otherwise they would have been tempted to adopt the cat and find homes for the kittens.

The teacher of performing arts at Oldham College said: “The cat had been hanging around for a while and we didn’t realise she was pregnant. We thought she already had a home because she was very friendly.”

So it was something of a surprise when they discovered the cat had given birth to three kittens in an empty rabbit hutch. Stacey said: “I had just given a lot of household goods to the RSPCA, due to us getting ready to move out of the house. Now I wish I’d sent the stuff elsewhere.”
The new RSPCA animal shelter in Redcross Street is still not open to the public, although animals are being taken in.

A North West spokeswoman for the RSPCA said it was common practice to advise people not to feed a stray cat, as it would form an attachment.

In this case, however, where three newborn kittens were involved, that advice was clearly wrong.

She added: “I have spoken to Ms Connor-Brown and apologised. We have also made arrangements for the cat and kittens to be taken to the new animal shelter in Rochdale, although it is not fully operational until June.”

Cats cited as high allergy risk

HAVING A cat in the home may put babies at 50 per cent greater risk of developing rashes, according to research recently published in the United States.

The researchers claim that dogs are more child-friendly when it comes to preventing allergy problems. Children exposed to two or more dogs in the home may gain some protection from developing eczema as they grow up.

The study was presented last week at the American Thoracic Society conference in San Diego, USA followed 486 children from birth to the age of one.

Parents were asked how many cats and dogs they had at home at the time the child was born. Their answers were compared with the number of children diagnosed with eczema by their first birthday.

Of 134 children whose households had cats, 28 per cent developed eczema, compared with 18 per cent of 286 children from cat-free homes.

Surprisingly, exposure to cats increased eczema risk more if a child’s mother did not have asthma. Previous studies have found people susceptible to eczema are also more likely to suffer other allergy conditions, including asthma and hay fever.

Many experts believe exposure to pets at an early age may help immunise children against allergies. This appears to be the case with dogs. The study found having more than one dog was slightly protective, but the effect was not statistically significant.

Researcher Dr Esmeralda Morales, from the University of Arizona in Tucson, said she expected to find that having both cats and dogs at home protected against allergic diseases.

She said: “Pets are a source of a compound called endotoxin and if a child is exposed to endotoxin early in life the immune system may be skewed away from developing an allergic profile.”

She added it was possible the one-year- olds with eczema might have a reduced risk of asthma or other allergic diseases later in life.

Cat allergy is the most common pet allergy, affecting up to 40 per cent of asthma sufferers.
It is caused by a protein in a cat’s skin flakes and saliva. The allergen is shed into the air and can remain airborne for months before collecting on walls and in clothing. Breathed in, it can trigger a reaction within minutes, causing symptoms including itchy eyes, sneezing, asthma and rashes typical of eczema. Dogs also produce an allergen but are less likely to provoke a reaction.
Experts say that parents should think twice before getting rid of their cats.

A spokesman for the British Skin Foundation said previous studies have shown exposure to cats may actually protect children from developing eczema. She said: “It’s too early to be definite about what parents should be doing. Getting rid of a beloved pet would cause psychological bereavement to a child that would far outweigh any benefit.”