Can you catch diseases from your cat?
THe answer is yes, but no need to despair just practice caution!
Cat owners at times may wonder if their feline friends may share with them more than just companionship. It happens very often that somebody catches a cold and wonders if it is just a coincidence that their kittens has the sniffles as well. The question "Can my cat transfer his sickness to myself" is a very legitimate one that concerned cat owners ask their veterinarians quite often. It is reasonable after all, because truth is, there are some diseases that effectively may be transmitted from felines to humans.
A disease that crosses species barriers is known as a "zoonosis". A species specific disease, on the contrary is a disease instead that belongs only to a species and does not cross boundaries. There are few zoonosis that cause humans to get sick because of their cats. Here are a few:
Does your cat or kitten have some hairless round patches of skin? If yes, you should be concerned about ringworm, a skin disorder caused by a fungus. Owners should therefore, practice hygienic measures to avoid transmission. This is best done by careful hand washing and by having the cat treated as soon as possible before the environment gets too much contaminated. Affected cats are treated by medication or special Lyme dips, while humans that have developed red, scaly and itchy patches of skin are treated with a topical anti fungal cream.
Cat Scratch Disease
Also known as Cat scratch fever, this disease is caused by a bacteria called "Bartonella". As implied, the disease is transmitted mainly via scratching, but it is not unknown of being transmitted also via bite. Affected humans develop a series of annoying symptoms such as: fever, fatigue, headaches, eye infections, unexplained muscle pain and swollen lymph nodes. Other more complications may arise in those with a lowered immune system.
In order for a cat to transmit this disease, it must ingest an infected animal and then expel the oocysts in their feces. When humans then get in contact with the cat's feces they may then become infected as well and develop flu like symptoms or no symptoms at all. The immune system of the affected person makes a big difference on how the body responds. Pregnant women are particularly at risk because their fetus may suffer serious damage.
This mainly is transmitted from cats that consume raw meat or those that tend to prey on wild birds. The offending bacteria is found in the cat's feces and therefore, owners must be very careful when cleaning litter boxes. Typically transmission occurs after via fecal-oral route, such as an owner cleans the litter box, get his hands in contact with the cat's feces and then inadvertently touches his lips.
Ever wondered why the rabies vaccine is mandated by law in most States? Because it can be transmitted from cats to humans and it can be deadly for both cat and owner. Any cat that has a history of being bit by a rabid animal and is suspected of having rabies is euthanized and decapitated so the brain can be tested. This potentially fatal disease is mainly transmitted via saliva either from a bite wound or from saliva entering a wound, such as an infected cat licking an owner's wound.
All cats and kittens should be screened by fecal test for roundworms. These parasites are often found in a cat's feces or vomited and they resemble thin spaghetti. While transmission to humans may not be easy, it can occur when humans injest the eggs found in dirt where the cat defecates and then brings his hands to his mouth. Children are more prone to transmission because they tend to play in the dirt and do not practice much hand washing. The risk is of a condition known as "larvae migrans" where the eggs become larvae once ingested and they migrate in the eye causing blindness.
As seen, cats have their good fair share of diseases communicable to humans and these are just a few. For this reason, humans must think twice before sharing their meal with their cat or letting that stray cat in the house before having him screened for diseases. While often owners tend to think they got their cold from their cat this is really not possible,since viruses in cats do not tend to cross barriers. In the same way,your cat cannot catch your cold either. If you happen to have the sniffles, look away from your cat, very likely the person to blame is your next door neighbor or your significant other.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to replace professional veterinarian advice and nor as a diagnostic tool. If you require any veterinary related advice, contact your veterinarian promptly.