Although most cat diseases only affect other felines, there are diseases you can catch from your cat. These are called zoonotic diseases, and they can spread from animals to humans. While the risk of catching some of these ailments from your cat is low, it is still helpful to know which illnesses can pass from your cat to you and how to prevent the spread of zoonotic diseases.
While this is by no means a complete list of all the diseases and parasites that can pass from cats to humans, these are a few of the most common or most serious zoonotic diseases.
Cat scratch disease, also known as cat scratch fever, is a bacterial infection that can be passed to a human from the bite or scratch of an infected cat. Symptoms of the sickness include fatigue, headaches, general acheiness, and a blister or bump at the site of the bite or scratch.
Unfortunately, cats can sometimes be asymptotic – or not show signs of the disease – so your cat could be a carrier without you even knowing it.
Despite the deceptive moniker, ringworm is not a parasite, but a fungal infection. Cats usually get ringworm if they are housed with a lot of other animals that have the infection. Humans can get ringworm if they come into physical contact with a cat or contaminated environment.
Ringworm is a hardy fungus and can spread rapidly. Signs of ringworm in humans are red, patchy spots on the skin that resemble a ring, blisters, and raised, irritated patches of skin. If you suspect your cat has ringworm, it is important to get them to the vet and put them on medication to eradicate the fungus. Ringworm can (and often will) continue to spread to humans and other animals if left untreated.
Roundworm is a parasite that can be found in a cat’s feces. These parasites can live in a healthy adult cat’s system without showing many symptoms, but some signs your cat is infected include a decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, or a bloated belly.
Since these worms sometimes go unnoticed, they can be passed on to humans via a cat’s excrements. While roundworms do not pose a significant threat to humans, there are potential risks. Left untreated, the larvae of the worm can travel to the eye. Ocular larva migrant (OLM) can potentially lead to blindness. If you believe you have contracted roundworms from your cat, it is vital to get them on a round of antibiotics and to see your human doctor as well.
If your cat is an outdoor cat, chances are they have come into contact with (or hunted down) rodents and birds. If a cat eats a smaller animal infected with toxoplasma, a parasite, it can transfer to their humans as well. The Toxoplasma gondii parasite is one of the most common parasites, and often it doesn’t present symptoms in cats or humans. Cats who are carrying the parasite may seem depressed, lose weight, appear shaky, or have a fever.
Still, it is good to take precautions when it comes to this parasite. For humans with weakened immune systems, like those who are pregnant or receiving chemotherapy, the symptoms can be severe. Toxoplasma can cause general confusion, seizures, and even lung issues for these people.
Rabies is a serious viral infection that is fatal to both cats and humans if left untreated. If your cat does contract rabies, they might appear restless, aggressive, or disoriented, and they could have seizures or even suddenly die.
Rabies can be transferred to humans if they are bitten by an infected cat.If your cat is up to date on their rabies vaccinations, this is highly preventable. However, if you suspect your cat has come into contact with another rabid animal – even if they are currently vaccinated – it is a good idea to check in with your vet to make sure they are still healthy.