Ringworm is defined as “a contagious itching skin disease occurring in small circular patches, caused by any of a number of fungi and affecting chiefly the scalp or the feet.” It can affect all of the animals at APA!- dogs and humans as well as cats. In cats, you usually see it as scaly patches of missing fur, and if you see it on an animal at most shelters in the country, it’s a death sentence. Unfortunately, most shelters just don’t have the resources to deal with a ringworm outbreak, in spite of the fact that it’s highly treatable and not a permanent or fatal condition. Fortunately, as we all know, Austin Pets Alive! is not most shelters. Today, I’d like to introduce you to Dazey’s Ward, otherwise known as our feline ringworm haven, one of our most groundbreaking programs.
As today’s ringworm adoption counselor, I unlock the door, step into Dazey’s Ward, and am immediately greeted by the impatient calls of 40 cats who want breakfast five minutes ago; and somehow the day only gets more hectic from there! For today, I am responsible for feeding, watering, monitoring, medicating, cleaning up after, and loving all of the cats in the building, plus greeting visitors, educating them about ringworm, and assisting anyone who wants to adopt one of our lovely residents. Each of the enclosures has to be tidied up, the litter boxes emptied, the food and water freshened up, the cats checked for new signs of sickness and given any needed medications, and everyone given individual attention. It’s a long day for everyone, and by the end of it I’m covered in litter dust, scratches from kittens who didn’t want their ringworm pills, and the disinfectant that we use to sanitize the cats’ enclosures.
But even after all the craziness of a day spent caring for the cats and kittens in the ward, they manage to make it all worth it. A lick on the cheek from Zsa-Zsa the gorgeous dilute tortie, or Kevin the handsome orange tabby climbing up onto my shoulders, or just a purr and a cuddle from the currently bald but still beautiful Clarence all remind me why I work in Dazey’s Ward, and why I work in animal rescue at all.
So many people pass up adopting, volunteering with, or visiting our residents, all because they’re a little crustier than normal. I’m here to tell you that meeting these cats is a privilege you can’t afford to miss out on, because our babies are some of the most affectionate, friendly cats I’ve ever interacted with. Secretly and perhaps a little foolishly, I think they know that they’ve been given another chance to find their forever homes and families, and they’re thankful for it. These are cats who would have been put to sleep almost anywhere else in the country, but they were lucky enough to be born in Austin. They’re living examples of the love and joy that second chances bring into the world, both for the animals who receive them and for the humans who get to meet those animals afterwards. So, come give ringworm a chance, and you just might meet the cat who will change your life forever- even if they need a little extra care up front!