Once your cat’s radiation levels have declined below the maximum allowed by federal and state law, your cat is able to be discharged. However, your cat will still have a low amount of radiation in his or her body. This amount of radiation is far less than what you might be exposed to flying across the country, or even during a weekend at the beach. However, since there is still some radiation present in your cat’s body at the time of discharge, there are legal requirements for owners once the cats are released.
At the time of I131 treatment, guidelines will be provided and reviewed with you to minimize unnecessary radiation exposure to family members for the first 2 weeks following the cat’s discharge from MAFTC. We recommend:
- Your cat should be discharged from our care in a non-cardboard carrier. Hard-sided carriers that can be wiped clean are recommended over cardboard carriers. Anything used to clean up any accidents (vomit, urine, feces) should be flushed. Wear gloves to clean up if possible, and wash hands thoroughly after cleaning.
- Keep your cat indoors (or, if outside, the cat should be under your direct supervision and on a leash in order to minimize the possibility of radiation exposure to other people) for 14 days after release from our hospital.
- Limit close up contact time (cuddling, lap time) with your cat to no more than 20-30 minutes per person per day (all at once or spread throughout the day). Avoid sleeping with the cat. You can pet your cat at arm’s length distance as much as you want during this 2-week period as this is a safe distance. (This is recommended in order to minimize your lifetime cumulative radiation exposure. Exposure to other pets is fine.)
- Wash hands carefully with soap and water after handling your cat, its food dishes and litter box.
- If possible, please wear disposable gloves when handling litter box excrement. We recommend use of flushable scoopable litter. All soiled litter must be collected and either flushed down the toilet (ONLY if using flushable litter!) or stored for 90 days after release (if non flushable litter is used).
- To store the litter (if not using flushable litter): Purchase a 5 gallon bucket and line it with a trash bag. Use a litter box liner for the next 14 days. All urine and feces should be scooped and placed into the bucket. After 14 days, dump the entire contents of the litter box into the bucket, along with any gloves or other items that have been in contact with your cat’s urine or feces during this two-week period. Put the lid on the bucket, assuring that it is well secured, and then store it in a place, preferably out of doors, that is safe from wildlife, etc. (such as the garage or shed. If kept inside, it should be kept away from high traffic areas). The bucket must be stored for 90 days, then can be placed out for your regular trash pick up. Garbage dumps have radiation detectors that will go off if radiation is detected and you will be fined – they have ways of finding you!
- There is no risk for other pets. Your cat can share the litter box with other cats in your home, and can play and sleep with other pets as usual.