The eggs hatch into larvae in response to a sudden increase in temperature-we certainly had that last July-and the moist environment of the host. The larvae enter the host by way of a natural body opening, commonly the nose or mouth (that licking habit), or a minute abrasion of the skin. They frequently remain in oral and nasal passages several days before worming and eating their way to preferred locations under the skin. Eventually the cuterebra pushes out of its breathing hole, falls to the ground, and pupates into another fly.
Cuterebra horripilum do not usually kill a healthy adult cat, although secondary infections might. The cuterebra can seriously compromise a kitten or young rabbit, though, because their weak immune systems allow the grub to grow quickly.
Staff at the Ann Arbor Animal Hospital told me that JXN was only their second cuterebra victim last summer, but in other years cuterebra cases have been numerous. All cat owners know about such parasites as fleas and worms, but who knew about cuterebras? Now I have my own specimen, safely stoppered up in a tube of alcohol.
Most important, JXN is completely back to his energetic, overly curious self. And I see that my deep attachment to him is driven by my preference to focus on his youth, not my own age, and on his need for me now that, in retirement, I have few other responsibilities.
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