Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
My three cats which are the love of my life are coughing, wheezing, gaging on mucus, vomiting without any warning, and lethargic. Two of the three cats have scabbing which I am certain is not ringworm as I do not have it. Not only that, but I’m having the same symptoms. The cats and I are also very dehydrated and lethargic. I have been to a doctor four times in the last year and he just chalked it up to stress. I have lived a high stress life all of my adult life, but my cats? Not so much. We do have a chicken pen in the back yard, and I’m afraid we might have contracted some kind of fungal infection from the hens. I’ve googled feline fungal and I’m quite desperate at this point. I did read an article about cryptococcosis and am wondering what the treatment for this fungus might be. I’m not fond of antibiotics, and I’d love to know if you think there is a better treatment — we all need help. I am moving to a new location, but am I taking this fungus with me? Please tell me what you think.
Siouxsie: Well, Laurie, before we answer your letter, we need to point out that we are not doctors or veterinarians, and you need to check with your and your cats’ physicians before acting on anything we might say.
Thomas: Secondly, if you are suffering from a fungal infection, no doctor would prescribe antibiotics. Instead, antifungal drugs are the treatment of choice. A doctor or vet might prescribe antibiotics for treating any secondary bacterial infection that resulted from the fungal infection, however.
Dahlia: We’ve done a little research of our own on cryptococcosis, and it seems to us that this is a pretty rare disease, most commonly seen in immunocompromised people such as individuals with HIV/AIDS or those undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.
Siouxsie: We think it’s more likely that you and your cats may be suffering from mold toxicity. Many websites about mold toxicity list the symptoms you’re describing as primary indicators for mold-related illnesses.
Thomas: Have you had any water damage in your house? If so, mold may be growing on or in the walls affected by the water. Mold can also build up in heating and air conditioning systems because water condenses off the cooling coils and stagnates.
Dahlia: Does your house smell musty when you walk inside? If so, mold may be growing in your home.
Siouxsie: We live in a basement apartment, and our place does smell kind of musty. There also has been some water damage. Mama’s taking steps to remediate the issue, but we are all suffering from some low-grade versions of mold reactions.
Thomas: If you’re moving, the odds are very good that you won’t be taking the mold with you. But in order to make sure of that, we’d recommend that you not take anything with you that has water damage or visible mold.
Dahlia: If you were planning to stay at your current house on a long-term basis, we’d urge you to have mold remediation experts inspect and clean problem areas in your home. It’s better to have experts do this because they have special tools that will prevent the spread of mold while they’re cleaning. We’d also recommend that if you’re renting, you tell your landlord about your concerns; he or she should be the one to pay for mold remediation.
Siouxsie: If you own your home and you’re planning to sell it, you should have any mold issues taken care of before you put it on the market. Potential buyers will have a building inspector tour the home and make a note of any issues–and if there is mold, they’ll find out and probably make mold remediation a condition of the sale anyway.
Thomas: There are some natural steps you can take to deal with small amounts of mold; borax and sunlight are chief among them. Borax can be found in most stores; you’ll see it in the laundry care section under the brand name 20 Mule Team Borax. Mix the Borax with water to form a paste and use it to clean mold-infested areas. Other natural means of killing mold include vinegar, grapefruit seed oil, tea tree oil, and citrus oil.
Dahlia: But we do not recommend using any essential oils near your cats. Many essential oils can be quite toxic to them. Borax can also be toxic to cats, but nowhere near as toxic as essential oils or chemical mold removers.
Siouxsie: You can wash all your laundry and add Borax to the mix. Borax was the first laundry booster/all-fabric bleach, and it can help you get rid of any mold spores that might be in your clothes or linens.
Thomas: Once again, we can’t stress enough that we are not medical professionals. We’re simply telling you about another reason you and your cats may be feeling so sick.
Dahlia: One more thing: if you’re taking your chickens with you to your new home, put their new pen as far from your house as practical. Keeping the pen and roosting areas scrupulously clean will also help to stave off any problems that might be caused by toxicity from chicken waste. And, of course, wear a dust mask when you’re cleaning the chicken boxes.
Siouxsie: If you do have a mold problem in your home, we’re pretty sure you’ll all be feeling better once you’ve moved to your new (and hopefully mold-free) home.
Thomas: You’ll find that there are a lot of people out there selling all kinds of “miracle cures” for mold toxicity, and most of these are pretty much useless — except to line the pockets of the people selling them. So we’d urge you to be sure and seek information about a variety of treatments, but please do so with your common-sense filter firmly in place.
Dahlia: Good luck, Laurie. Please let us know how things turn out.