Diseases Cats Spread to Humans

Holding Pet CatLast month, I shared this fact about cats and dogs: it’s not likely that you could spread your cold or flu to them, or that they could spread your germs to your family or friends. But there are some illnesses pets can spread to people.

Let’s start with Miss Kitty. Check out the signs of diseases your cat or kitten can pass along to you, and how you can prevent it.

  • Cat-scratch disease: Cats and kittens can play hard—nipping and scratching, and breaking your skin. That can be a problem because the bacteria that cause cat-scratch disease can spread to you this way. You can also get it if your cat licks an open wound you might have. Four out of 10 cats have the bacteria that cause this disease, and it’s more common in kittens under 12 months old—you know, the ones that are most playful! But you’re not likely to know you’ve been exposed at first, because most cats have no signs of this disease. And it can take up to two weeks for your symptoms to appear. Signs might include swollen, warm and/or red skin at the area of broken skin. You can also have a fever or headache, have a poor appetite and feel tired.
    • If you think you have cat scratch fever, contact your doctor. Medicines are the typical treatment.
    • To prevent it: wash your hands or any other open skin after playing with Kitty.
  • Cat Ringworm: This disease, caused by a fungus, causes a ring-shaped rash on the skin and scalp that becomes bald and patchy. The patches might also be warm or itchy. Humans get ringworm by touching a pet or person that has it, or even contacting a doorknob, blanket, towel or other surfaces that have the fungus on it. Like cat-scratch disease, the animal might not have symptoms, and symptoms in you can appear up to two weeks after exposure. Dogs and puppies can also transmit ringworm, as can cows, goals pigs and even horses.
    • If you think you have it: see your doctor. And take all your pets to the vet, so they can be checked out and get care, too.
    • And if you know your pet has ringworm, wear gloves and long sleeves when touching your pet and when doing a thorough cleaning of areas your pet spends time (especially his bed and other favorite sleeping spaces). Also, vacuum floors to remove flakey skin.
    • To prevent it: wash your hands after playing with a pet.
  • Rabies: Though this is rare in pets, its dangers are worth mentioning. Once you have symptoms, it’s often too late for treatment. And the result is death. People get rabies from bites from an infected animal or from exposure to other tissues: from the brain and nervous system, specifically. If you’re bitten by or exposed to an animal that might have rabies, first wash the area immediately and thoroughly with soap and water. Then see your doctor to determine next steps. If the pet is up to date on its rabies shots, you should be okay. But your wound might still need attention.

Other diseases that you can get from a cat cause diarrhea and stomach cramps. But those, along with cat-scratch fever, ringworm and rabies—all have some things in common. They can often be prevented by simply washing your hands or other exposed areas—especially after petting your cat, after cleaning the litter box and even after contacting their food and water dishes. Of course, regular trips to the vet can often ensure your cat stays healthy and disease-free in the first place!

With these simple health tips, you’re more likely to experience only the best part of owning a cat: their love and affection for many happy, healthy years.

Coming later: tips to avoid catching diseases from your dog.

How do you avoid catching disease from your cat? Share with us in the comment section!

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