The Volunteer Vet: Removing a Parasite from a Kitten

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The Volunteer Vet: Removing a Parasite from a Kitten

A warble, the larva of a botfly, by Kitkat

Behold the unpleasant entity. This is a warble. It's the reason you shouldn't handle squirrels: those cute little critters may be infested with this parasite, the larval stage of the botfly. They spread around in a particular creepy manner.

Do you remember the movie Alien? Where the critter hatches out of the hapless astronaut? Like that. Only it does it to mice, dogs, cats, livestock, and even humans. Yuck.

A botfly lays eggs in an animal's fur. The hatched larva gets inside through the nose or mouth and migrates to a place under the skin. When it's ready to come out, it eats its way to the surface, making a painful and ugly lesion.

Although botflies don't usually kill their hosts, they're a particular danger to kittens, which are small and vulnerable. So when Kitkat saw a botfly lesion on her friend Brownie, and realised that the parasite was still inside, she took action.

The small hole in the kitty's skin was a breathing space for the warble. (It needs to breathe.) So the first step was to plug the hole with petroleum jelly, making the bug uncomfortable and causing it to poke its head out.

Next step: grab it firmly with a small forceps. Veterinarians use 'flea forceps', but Kitkat lives on a farm. She used a set of needle-nosed pliers. After a few tries, she grabbed the offensive alien and removed it. The kitty remained remarkably calm throughout the procedure.

What to do with the warble? It could not be set free. There are too many potential victims on a farm. Execution was called for. The internet recommended death by drowning in alcohol. When this proved ineffective – the little monster was unperturbed after an hour in the alcohol bath – drastic measures were called for. Incineration led to a satisfactory conclusion (for the human, not the botfly larva).

Brownie, the kitten treated by Kitkat

Brownie the kitten was treated with antibiotics, and is fine.

To those worried about interfering with nature, it should be pointed out that the botfly larva that hatches out of a cat can't reproduce, anyway: it has made a mistake in species. According to the website, the botfly was aiming for a rabbit, with which it has a symbiotic relationship. Kitty probably got nosy at the rabbit burrow, and was infested in error.

We applaud Kitkat's veterinary skills, and pass this tip on to the public.

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Dmitri Gheorgheni

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