TECHNIQUE

Accommodation of Casualty Felis silvestris - Wild cat (Wildlife Casualty Management)
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Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / UK Wildlife Casualty Management/ Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords N.B.  This information should be read in association with Wildlife Casualty Accommodation which contains background information together with links to the Electronic Library and Organisations (UK Contacts). The related Species pages contain similar linkages.
Description This page has been prepared for the "UK Wildlife: First Aid and Care" Wildpro module, and is designed for the needs of the following species: Felis silvestris - Wild cat

True wild cats are very rarely presented as candidates for rehabilitation and there are few published sources of information. They are usually stronger and more difficult to handle than are feral domestic cats. Principles for housing of exotic cats in zoos rather than of domestic cats are applicable. These animals should be transferred to a facility with appropriate handling facilities as soon as possible.

Transport container:

  • Carrying cage of heavy mesh, small gauge to reduce risk of tooth damage.
  • Preferably with a crush facility.
  • Towels should be provided within the cage for bedding.
  • Cover any open sides with a cloth such as a towel or blanket 
  • Ensure that ventilation is sufficient; there should be a free flow of air through the container (B69).
  • Never use cardboard or plastic domestic cat carrying boxes to transport a wild cat.
  • Consult IATA regulations regarding the requirements for transport containers if transporting for any distance. See: Wildlife Casualty Handling and Transport for further information.

Short term (Immediate/Emergency) Accommodation:

  • A strong cage is required. Metal would often be the most suitable material, although a very solid wooden crate may be adequate.
  • Remember wildcats can squeeze through small holes and scratch through materials such as cardboard or very light wood panels.
  • Cage should be dividable to enable cleaning and to minimise the need for handling (the animal can be shut in one side while the other half of the cage is cleaned).
  • (B151, V.w6)

Medium-term (Hospitalisation) Accommodation:

  • Should be dividable to allow cleaning of the accommodation and provision of food and water with minimum handling.
  • Should facilitate catching of the cat for treatment.
  • A sleeping box should be provided; this gives the cat a sense of security; as a minimum a solid, securely placed board may be used to provide an area in which the cat can hide.
    • The design of a hiding area must not prevent safe manual capture or remote darting of the cat (e.g. a small hole in a board to allow access for the end of a blowpipe).
    • A nest box may be designed to allow the cat to be easily confined within it for capture e.g. in-built sliding door.
    • Any nestbox/sleeping box should be of a size which may be fitted through the door of the cage/enclosure; the incorporation of carrying handles into the box design is extremely useful.
  • At least one shelf should be provide for the cat to sit/lie on.
  • A thick branch or log provides a scratching post.
  • Floors should have good drainage and be easy to clean.
  • (B10.48.w29, B64, B69, V.w5, V.w6)

Long-term (Rehabilitation and Permanent) Accommodation:

  • A covered outside enclosure with chain link netting is usually used for this climbing species.
  • Natural grass and earth is an appropriate substrate.
  • The enclosure should included shaded areas for protection from strong sunlight in summer and discrete resting places where the cat feels it is out of human view.
  • An inside holding/den are provides a dry place in winter as well as allowing the cat to be shut away from the rest of the enclosure during routine maintenance and for catching. 
  • The inside area should include a sleeping shelf and may have e.g. wood shavings on concrete as a substrate.
  • Nest boxes should be provided; these give the cat a sense of security as well as shelter.
    • A nest box may be designed to allow the cat to be easily confined within it for capture e.g. inbuilt sliding door.
    • Any nestbox/sleeping box should be of a size which may be fitted through the door of the cage/enclosure; the incorporation of carrying handles into the box design is extremely useful.
  • Good drainage is important.
  • Furnishings such as logs and branches of appropriate sizes should provide the opportunity for climbing and scratching.
  • (B10.48.w29, B16.4.w4, B64, B69, V.w6)
Appropriate Use (?)
  • These animals require specialist accommodation, particularly for longer term care. 
  • Short-term (Immediate / Emergency) Accommodation is designed to be used for a short period of time only, e.g. prior to examination, to allow basic first-aid to be carried out, while an animal requires intensive care, or while specialist accommodation is being prepared.
    • The most important requirements are warmth, quiet and dark or dim lighting.
  • Medium-term (Hospitalisation) Accommodation is designed for the short-term care of individual animals or groups of animals, particularly during treatment and rehabilitation.
    • Hospital accommodation is commonly constructed with hygiene and easy cleaning as the main considerations, but the specific needs of the patients, including behavioural needs, should also be considered.
  • Long-term (Rehabilitation and Permanent) Accommodation facilities for wildlife are generally larger and more complex than accommodation designed only for temporary occupancy.
    • In general this type of accommodation is not suitable for animals which require daily treatment.
    • A period in rehabilitation accommodation is important when an animal has been hospitalised for some time.
    • If an animal is maintained in long-term care accommodation for a substantial period of time, the animal must have some form of environmental enrichment to encourage natural behaviours (possibly through food presentation techniques, cage furniture that encourages activity, or play items that would be found in its native environment). This is to reduce the risk of boredom as the animal becomes accustomed to its enclosure and the possible development of behavioural problems. (V.w6)
Notes
  • Consider requirements for handling: design should minimise the risks of injury to occupant and handlers.
  • Consider requirements for cleaning and provision of food and water: design should minimise the disturbance of the animal during these activities.
  • Transport container should be long enough to allow the occupant to lie prone and high enough to allow the occupant to stand upright with its head in a normal position (B69)
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Must be sufficiently strong to contain the animal.
  • Consideration must be given in choosing accommodation to the need to catch the animal safely and to be able to carry out routine cleaning etc. with minimum disturbance of the animal.
  • Phenolic disinfectants must not be used. (B69)
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Most materials required for the construction of cages and rehabilitation enclosures may be obtained from standard fencing or farm-equipment stores.
Expertise level / Ease of Use
  • Construction of longer-term accommodation requires some expertise.
  • Care of wild cats should carried out by experienced personnel.
Cost/ Availability
  • Construction of longer-term accommodation in particular may be expensive – the cost is generally proportional to the strength and durability of construction materials used.
Legal and Ethical Considerations
  • Accommodation for casualty wild animals should be designed to minimise the stress on the animal and to minimise the risk of injury to that animal.
  • A wild animal in captivity is protected under the same welfare legislation as domestic animals, e.g. Protection of Animals Acts 1911-2000; under this legislation it is an offence to treat a captive animal cruelly or to cause it unnecessary suffering.
    • This includes an obligation to provide proper attention and care.
    • The keeper has a duty to keep all wildlife casualties in a fit manner, in accommodation of a size which allows reasonable movement and with an environment suitable for its normal way of life.
    • (J35.147.w1, P19.2.w1, D27, D28)
  • Accommodation which does not fulfil the physiological and psychological requirements of the animal and results in an inadequate level of fitness at the time of release may seriously compromise the survival ability of that animal. Release of an animal which is unfit may be an offence under the Abandonment of Animals Act 1960 (J35.147.w1, W5.Jan01).
  • Risks to human health, both physical and risk of zoonotic illness must be minimised: Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974.
  • An offence may be committed under article 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 if a species on Schedule 9 of that Act, or a species not ordinarily resident in the UK is allowed to escape from accommodation in which it is being housed.
  • See: Legislation relating to Wildlife Casualties.
Author Debra Bourne
Referee Suzanne Boardman and Becki Lawson
References

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