This week I was informed of a disturbing incident by Maria, an animal-care provider in the area and one of the NCSPCA's many supporters. Like many of us living in this rural area, her home was frequented by feral cats, which are usually kittens of people's cats who have been abandoned to the wild. Maria trapped a feral cat and took it to the vet to have it neutered and vaccinated. For some reason, the incision site would not stop bleeding. A series of tests indicated that his blood was not clotting properly. He received a huge dose of Vitamin K; eventually his blood did clot, and he did recover. However, he went home with 14 days of Vitamin K capsules to help him return to full health - and a new home, where he is now known as "Mittens."
Maria explained that the reason for the cat's inability to stop bleeding was likely because, fending for himself, he may have eaten one or several mice who had eaten the mouse bait "D-Con." D-Con contains warfarin, which prevents blood from clotting. In fact, warfarin is the same chemical given to human patients - in miniscule doses - for cardiac conditions in which blood clots in the heart are a major concern. When rodents ingest warfarin, they begin to accumulate the chemical in their body as they return to eat further bait. High level of warfarin lead to internal bleeding and eventually, to death. When a cat or dog eats multiple affected rodents over time, they begin to experience the same effects. Death due to warfarin poisoning is slow and painful, as it primarily causes bleeding of the muscles and joints in the early stages.
Clearly, this is a dangerous chemical to use in an area known to be frequented by your pets - or feral animals who are not pests. One way to avoid exposure to dangerous rodenticides is to use non-chemcial forms of rodent control. Snap traps, although seemingly cruel, do not involve use of poisons. In addition, there are alternatives on the market that are mouse-sized versions of the Hav-a-Heart trap, know as the "Tin Mouse." I have personally used the latter and was able to safely catch and release a number of mice who were living in my home.