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A zoonotic disease is a disease that can be transmitted between humans and animals. Yes, there are actually some diseases that you can catch from your cat!
Zoonotic diseases can be transmitted via the bodily fluids of an infected cat, through flea bites or via skin contact if it’s a skin disease, but the method of transmission varies. It’s important to understand which feline diseases can be caught by you and your family, so you can recognise the symptoms and take precautions if necessary.
Ringworm is probably the most common cat / human zoonotic disease, and despite the name, it isn’t caused by a worm! It’s actually a fungal skin infection that’s characterised by round lesions on the skin, and it can be transmitted through simple touch, or even being around your cat if she has it – unfortunately the ringworm ‘spores’ can be shed into your cat’s surroundings, where you can catch them. This is the one zoonotic disease we have personal experience with – and it was extremely unpleasant!
Cat Scratch Disease
Like the name suggests, ‘cat scratch disease’ (CSD) is caused by a certain bacteria being transmitted into a human’s blood stream via a cat scratch or bite. Although quite rare, and usually transmitted by kittens, people can take a few months to fully recover from CSD, so it can be quite debilitating. Symptoms include swollen lymph nodes, tiredness and muscle pain.
Toxoplasmosis is of particular risk to pregnant women, because it can damage the unborn baby, and this is the reason why you’re advised to leave the litter tray cleaning to someone else in your home if you’re pregnant. This is because an infected cat will produce infected faeces, although it takes 24 hours for the infected faeces to be a risk to humans – anther good reason to clean out litter trays regularly!
Although it’s rare for humans to become infected with intestinal worms that are commonly found in cats, such as tapeworm or roundworm, it is a possibility if hygiene levels are poor. Your cat should be regularly wormed as part of her overall health care, and if she never gets worms, they’re obviously never going to be transmitted to you or your family.
Campylobacter / Salmonella
Campylobacter and salmonella are both extremely nasty gastrointestinal bacteria that cause extreme problems with stomachs, both human and feline. Although they’re more common in humans, and you’ve probably read about cases of food poisoning where campylobacter or salmonella were mentioned (hopefully you haven’t suffered yourself!), cats are less likely to pick up these bugs and transmit them to humans.
You know when your cat is under the weather, so it’s always important to take her to the vet if you think she’s unwell. This way, your vet can diagnose exactly what’s wrong with her, and will of course tell you if it’s a zoonotic disease, and what precautions you and your family need to take.
Have you ever caught anything from your cat? Please share in the comments below.