The Scratching Post is a weekly newsletter from pets columnist Kate Karp, bringing you all the latest news on pet adoptions, animal welfare and ways to get involved.
Demystifying ringworm, or how I spent my Christmas vacation
A month ago, Long Beach Animal Care Services’ interim manager Melanie Wagner asked for volunteers to give weekly medicinal baths to cats with ringworm. How could I do better, I thought, than spend the winter holidays and beyond by gowning up from head to toe in personal protective equipment, bathing a bunch of bewildered felines in a stinky solution, and disinfecting their kennels? So I raised my paw.
If you’re not familiar with ringworm, it isn’t a worm. It’s an itchy, scaly, fungus that manifests in a circular rash with little red spots. It’s similar to “athlete’s foot” in humans. Ringworm got the first part of its name from its shape; the worm business came either from its roundness or because, back in the olden days, people thought it was a worm burrowed under the skin.
The fungus is zoonotic, meaning that it can pass by direct contact or through fomites — inanimate objects like hair or clothing — from animals to humans and vice versa.
“Ringworm is manageable — it isn’t a sickness and shouldn’t be a death sentence,” Wagner said. “That doesn’t align with our Compassion Saves mission, which includes treating things that are treatable. If you follow certain protocols, it is 100% treatable and not something to be afraid of.”
Wagner said that cats with ringworm are euthanized in some shelters mainly because of the danger of contagion to the entire cat population and the continual work and staff necessary for treatment. A growing number of shelters, like LBACS, are providing treatment, time, space, as well as staff and volunteer hours to help cure the cats and allow them to live full lives. The path to recovery isn’t quick and easy, though.
“One of the challenges in the shelter is that ringworm is an opportunistic fungus — it feeds on the immune system and stress,” Wagner said. “So, the cats are stressed in kennels, which can make the treatment a lot longer.”
Infected LBACS cats are housed in an isolation room and receive repeated medical baths — Wagner waggily calls them spa days — until a fungal culture determines them free of ringworm. The treatment and recovery process lasts two to three months, and it’s likely a relief to the cats when they finally arrive, clean and dry, in kennels in the general area. The species isn’t known for a fondness for bathing.
You may be scratching yourself by now, but you may also want to know what to do for a ringworm-infested kitty who lives with you. The first step is the veterinarian. Do whatever they tell you. They may prescribe oral medication, an ointment or both. Keep your cat in a spare room — a bathroom with a tile floor is ideal. Get several packages of disposable latex gloves, and change them every time you handle the cat and then handle something other than the cat, like a faucet. Keep some fungus fashionwear hanging in the room to wear when you’re in the room. Include socks, too. When I return from the shelter, I launder what I wear and add a strong disinfectant to the soap. And shower.
Wagner hopes to increase the volunteer bathing team in the future and encourage a team of ringworm fosters who have the space at home.
“That will help us treat ringworm in the future and give [the cats] a lot less recovery time because of the reduced stress,” Wagner said.
Meanwhile, the other volunteer and I will continue the spa days as long as necessary so that fewer cats will have to ring in 2025 with ringworm.
Editor’s note: The Dec. 29 newsletter, “Meet the woman helping the unhoused and their pets,” mistakenly included San Francisco as one of Project Street Vet’s team cities. A list of the nonprofit’s current teams can be found here.
And while we’re on the subject of good deeds — the Long Beach Post and its sibling pubs have restructured as a nonprofit, meaning that we’re here to serve our community (you!). Find out here about becoming a subscribing member or making a tax-deductible gift to support the Long Beach Journalism Initiative. As an added bonus to our pet community, a portion of the funds from Scratching Post newsletter subscriptions will go to the venerable Friends of Long Beach Animals.
Pets to adopt or foster
Here are a few healthy kitties waiting to go home with you. They’re in the Long Beach Animal Care Services general population kennels with their furry little colleagues. LBACS is located at 7700 E. Spring St. at the entrance to El Dorado Park (no parking fee for shelter visitors); hours are Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Speed up the adoption process by emailing [email protected].
Trudy (ID#A699900) is a 2-year-old domestic shorthair tortoiseshell. She started out as a toughie who wouldn’t give you the time of day, much less a purr. She had a poor appetite, and there’s damage to her left eye, which she cannot see out of. But leave it to those purr-sistent volunteers: after a few months, she’s become a real sweetheart who appreciates petting, chin scritches and, finally, a good meal! Her purring is the volunteers’ reward, and it will be yours as well.
Mozzy (ID#A707538) is not short for “mozzarella,” although she does have a heck of an appetite! Mozzy is a 5-year-old black-and-white domestic shorthair who lives in the LBACS cattery with several other felines. She’s a fun playmate to the other cats and likes people, too. She’s fed up with the whole holiday season and is ready to go to a loving home and purr on someone’s lap.
Pet events and announcements
Support needed for Feline Good Social Club after recent break-in
Long Beach’s only cat lounge got a nasty Christmas Day visit from a thief who smashed through their lobby window and stole some of their technology devices. To their credit, if you can call it that, the cats are all fine. The proprietors are grateful to the Long Beach Police Department and the Downtown Long Beach Business Alliance for their support. The Lounge is open for business as usual, so why not come in and offer the kitties some chin rubs and playtime. Attend their quirky events, too. Feline Good Social Club is a nonprofit, and all the entrance fees help keep the cats healthy and happy. Now, they’ll have to help buy a new window and devices. Donate here if you want to help.
Drag Queen Bingo with The Little Lion Foundation
Everyone had so much fun at the last Drag Queen Bingo event that they’re bringing in another! Host Mia Anastasia Farrow will be calling out the numbers and creating more havoc and outrage that an assemblage of alley cats. Great prizes, good food and entertainment, and all funds going to support cat rescue and animal welfare through the Little Lion Foundation.
Saturday, Jan. 6; 6 to 9 p.m., Ficklewood Ciderworks, 720 E. Broadway, Long Beach, tickets $20 at the door
To see a list of local animal rescue groups, click here.