Veterinarians are seeing a rise in a tick-borne illness that's killing cats, and doctors say cat owners need to take precautions.
One Tulsa lab said it’s diagnosed almost 20 cases of Bobcat Tick Fever this year, with half of them coming from Muskogee County.
Alan Burkett can't believe his cat is gone after being killed by a tick carrying the disease.
"If you look around now you won't find one cat. They're all dead. This thing has wiped them all out," Burkett said.
Bobcat Tick Fever comes from bobcats and is carried by ticks to house cats.
Veterinarians like Connie Wright, who examine blood samples, say cases of the Bobcat Tick Fever are high this year.
"To see that many this early on, it’s going to be a bad year. We're going to see a lot, I think," she said.
Wight said her lab diagnosed 16 cases this year with the first in March - two months before tick season normally starts.
Wright said half of her tick cases are coming from Muskogee County.
"It’s a very rapidly fatal disease, so the faster you can diagnose it, the better chance you have at treating it," she said.
Veterinarian Phil McKinney knows of several cases in Muskogee.
"We have had approximately six to eight cases this summer. We've only had two survive," he said.
McKinney said cats will come in looking weak and dehydrated; another sign of Bobcat Tick Fever is the cat shows signs of jaundice.
Veterinarians recommend you check your cat for ticks every time your cat goes outside.
Burkett said, "If somebody would've let me know, maybe ahead of time, I might could've saved my cat. I don't know what I might have done, I might have took it inside and locked it up for a couple of weeks hoping it might pass."
Flea and tick collars run between $50 and $60 and last about eight months. The topical runs around $20 and lasts a month.