Cats are among the most common pets in the world. They are usually very cute and prove to be great companions for humans. But did you know? Cats can also carry many diseases that can be transferred to humans.
Such diseases that are transferable from animals to humans are called zoonotic diseases. People that are most commonly affected by zoonotic diseases are those who have a lot of contact with animals. Most zoonotic diseases are caused because of certain parasites and bacteria.
Overall, there are about 250 different kinds of zoonotic organisms that are responsible for spreading these diseases, 40 of which are found in cats and dogs. And as cats and dogs are the most common domesticated pets, the chance of getting a disease through them is higher than others.
In this article, we are going to be looking into zoonotic diseases that are specifically caused because of cats.
Now, the likelihood of catching diseases from a domesticated cat is very low, especially if it stays indoors and the environment is hygienic.
But still, to be on the safe side, you should be aware of the possible diseases and their symptoms. The likelihood of these diseases does increase for people who have weaker immune systems like children, the elderly, diabetic patients and people undergoing chemotherapy.
So, if you notice any unexplained symptoms, visit the doctor and take your pet to the vet immediately. Here is a list of some of the most common diseases that are transferable to humans from cats. Keep an eye out for their symptoms.
Cat Scratch Disease
Cat scratch disease, also known as CSD, is a common zoonotic disease caused by cats. It is caused by bacteria named Bartonella henselae. This bacterium is usually transferred through the saliva of an infected cat. As it is clear from the name, CSD is mainly caused due to scratches from cats, and it can also be transferred if an infected cat licks a preexisting scratch or wound.
The common and the most prominent symptom of CSD is swelling and blistering on the point of the scratch or infected wound. The wound also becomes very painful, and the pain is usually accompanied by a high fever, severe headaches, nausea, and pain in muscles and joints. A healthy adult can recover from CSD without any lasting effects, though it can take more than a month to recover completely.
If CSD is not treated in people with weak immune systems, like children and the elderly, it can cause many more serious problems like infections in the eyes, heart and brain. At this stage, CSD may even require extensive antibiotic therapy for recovery.
Salmonella is a group of bacteria which can cause poising in the human body. Usually, salmonella poisoning is caused when undercooked chicken meat or eggs are ingested, but it is also possible to be affected by salmonella because of infected cats.
Cats that develop salmonella poisoning because of eating suspicious meats can transfer salmonella bacteria to their owners through their stool or saliva. Salmonella poisoning is more common in cats that roam outside the house and feed on dead birds, food from trash cans, and mice.
The common symptoms of salmonella poisoning are diarrhea, severe abdominal pains and fever. Although salmonella is a disease that can be cured by itself, in severe conditions and for people with unhealthy immune systems additional treatment, similar to that for food poisoning may be required, as in severe conditions salmonella can even cause digestive tract infections and organ infections.
Salmonella caused because of cats is an easy problem to prevent. If you keep your cat indoors and feed it cooked food and processed cat food, the chances of developing salmonella poisoning are almost non-existent. Also, always remember to wear gloves when you are handling the litter of the cat, and use an anti-bacterial soap to wash your hands after cleaning up the kitty litter.
Scabies is a kind of infection which is caused by a mite named Sarcoptes scabiei, Sarcoptes scabiei is an external zoonotic parasite that can be found on the skin of your cat. These tiny mites can be transferred to humans when they are petting their cat or grooming it.
The mites that cause Scabies in cats aren’t as common as fleas, but still, you need to stay aware of the causes and symptoms of the disease.
These mites can burrow into the skin of humans. The common symptoms of a scabies infestation are raised lesions on the skin accompanied by a lot of itchiness. If you find any of these symptoms, visit the doctor and the vet ASAP, and also thoroughly clean up the area where the cat has been like the couch and carpets.
Replace the bedding of the cat to make sure that your home is free of the mites. The treatment of Scabies also involves using ointments that reduce the irritation caused by the mites and repels them as well.
Some parasites that cats are usually affected by can also affect humans. Toxocara, aka Roundworms, are one of the most common feline parasites that can cause diseases in humans. These parasites enter the human body, usually because of unhygienic practices, like not washing hands properly after handling kitty litter
Another common way how these parasites affect the human body is through contaminated soil. Cats can defecate in your gardening soil and then while gardening you can come in contact with the eggs of these parasites. So always use gloves while gardening and always wash your hands thoroughly after you’re done.
Visceral larva migrans is a disease that is caused due to roundworms. It is a serious disease that affects many organs. When Toxocara or roundworm eggs and larvae enter the human body, they can move to many organs. These parasites usually affect the liver or the nervous system.
The most common symptoms of these diseases are fever, abdominal pain, nausea, fatigue and coughing. In some cases, roundworms even move to the eye and can cause a disturbance in vision, pain and infection in the eye.
Hookworms are also a common parasite that is transferable from cats to humans. Hookworms cause a disease called cutaneous larva migrans. This is a skin disease that is caused when humans come in contact with hookworm infested soil or kitty litter. Hookworms and their larvae may enter the skin of humans and cause a lot of inflammation, pain and itchiness.
You can also see red raised lesions on the skin as a result of these parasites. Once again, this disease can be avoided if proper hygiene is maintained. Also, remember to thoroughly clean the soil of the vegetables you get from your garden to stay safe from the disease.
Ringworm is a common skin infection that contrary to its name isn’t a parasitic disease caused by a worm. In fact, ringworm is classified as a fungal disease. Cats that live in environments with a lot of animals or cats that roam outside the house a lot are at a higher risk of developing ringworm.
Ringworm germs may be transferred to humans while petting or grooming the cat. On infected cats, ringworm can be detected in the form of grey, dry and scaly patches on the skin. The common place to look is the cat’s head and paws.
When humans are affected by ringworm, the results often appear in the form of red and round itchy lesions. If you see such symptoms on the cat, take it to a vet and quarantine it so that the whole home is not filled with fungal spores from the cat’s skin, which are capable of causing ringworms for months. Ringworms can be easily avoided by keeping the environment of the cat clean and hygienic.
Toxoplasma gondii is the parasitic protozoan that is responsible for causing Toxoplasmosis. This is another disease that is common in cats that roam outside a lot and may be able to feed on dead birds and rodents. Once a cat is infected, it can keep shedding the parasite and its larvae for about two weeks, and it can contaminate many locations like the soil in the garden, water and sandboxes.
These parasites can then stay active for moths and cause Toxoplasmosis in people who come in contact with the feces and the contaminated elements. Toxoplasmosis can also be caused due to the consumption of undercooked or bad meat, but as far as Toxoplasmosis caused by cats is concerned the most common thing that infects humans is the consumption of contaminated soil from gardens.
So, remember to clean the vegetables before you consume them. And keep your cat indoors and feed it cooked meat and commercially produced cat food. The common symptoms of Toxoplasmosis are headaches, and fever and muscle pains that are similar to those felt due to flu. In rare cases, it can also cause diarrhea, vomiting and seizures.
Campylobacter infection is a digestive tract or intestinal infection that is commonly caused by consuming bad undercooked meat. Though it is not the case commonly, Campylobacter infection can also be transferred to you from your pet cat.
If your cat consumes raw meat, and dead birds and rodents from the street and trash cans, it can also be affected by Campylobacter infection. Always use a scooper or a cordless vacuum for cat litter to clean up the litter box and wash your hands with anti-bacterial soap immediately afterwards.
Severe fever, bloody diarrhea, and abdominal pain and cramps are the most common symptoms of Campylobacter infection. Campylobacter infection can be easily avoided by keeping your cat indoors and practicing proper hygiene.
Giardia is another serious parasitic disease that can be transferred from cats to humans. Giardia is usually accompanied by serious diarrhea, which is very dangerous for the body. Giardia is, in fact, the most common intestinal parasite in humans.
Giardia is caused due to many reasons, among which one is through your pets. So, if your cat has diarrhea, contact the vet immediately. And make sure to handle and change the kitty litter hygienically using gloves so that you aren’t affected by the disease.
Rabies is classified as a viral disease. The chance of catching rabies from a domesticated and vaccinated cat is very rare, but still if you rescue a cat from the street, or you allow your cat to roam outside, the chances of rabies increase dramatically. You should know that rabies is almost every time fatal for the cat and in humans; it can attack the nervous system and cause many serious problems.
Preventing rabies is very simple. By vaccinating your pet, you significantly reduce the risk of rabies, and by further keeping your pet indoors, the risk almost disappears. So, keep yourself and your pet safe and of course if you see any symptoms, visit the vet and doctor immediately.
Take care of the diseases and symptoms mentioned above and you’ll be good to go! Stay safe!
About the Author:
This post is written by Taylor Starc, who is an animal behaviorist and a certified pet trainer. He has been working at Animal Training Academy in Montreal for ten years now. Apart from his professional life, he likes to read and write blogs in his leisure time. You can read some of his best pieces at https://obeymycat.com/.