Your pet cats bring joy and happiness to your household; They are stress relievers and overall great companions, but sometimes…they carry and transmit diseases, just like any other animal.
So, before we start, let’s establish what a Zoonosis is:
Zoonoses(Zoo for animal and noses for illness), in simple termes, are infectious diseases transmitted naturally from a vertebrate animal to humans. These infections may be Bacterial, Viral, Parasitic or even Fungal. This includes the likes of Malaria, Rabies…Ascaridiosis among many others.
Transmission routes of Zoonosis:
Cats carry various pathogens that can infect human via direct contact with and infected pet, contact with contaminated food or water, Vectors ( Such as fleas, mosquitos…etc) or simply from a shared environment. Through a bite, a scratch or body fluids, a pet cat can indeed infect its owner with, sometimes lethal diseases.
Exemple of Cat Zoonoses:
Cat scratch fever: We’ve all been scratched at some point by a cat, and for some, we could qualify it as…scarring (I know, i know), and again, it’s most often than not, superficial and very benign in nature. But in serious cases, a pet cat infected with Bartonella henselae, a pathogen bacterium, can transmit it to its owner via a scratch, a bite or even a lick of an open wound. The infection causes swelling at the site of scratch or bite, lymph nodes at the region swell as well and become painful. Fever and general unease are symptomatic of the disease too. It is worth noting that people with compromised immune system can suffer from severe symptoms such as granulomatous hepatitis (inflammation of the liver), splenitis (inflammation of the spleen) or osteomyelitis (bone infection). Cat scratch disease typically subsides without any treatment, usually within 2 to 4 months but may require antibiotic treatment in the severe cases.
Another bacterial infection may be contracted through contact with an infected cat: Salmonella poisoning. This disease is caused by an enterobacterium, genus Salmonella. The symptoms include: Diarrhea, fever, and stomach pain. Humans become infected most frequently through contaminated water or food
Parasites represent another group of pathogen transmitted to humans via contact with their pet cat et include:
- Fleas, who represent the most common external parasite of cat. They serve as vectors for zoonoses and their bite may result in hypersensitivities and inflammations.
- Roundworms such as Toxocara and Hookworms such as Ancylostoma: Both are transmitted via contact with cat feces, Extreme cases of infections with Toxocara are represented by Visceral larva migrans, that targets multiple organs and cause Fever, Fatigue, Coughing…
- Giardiasis: Caused by a microscopic parasite, Giardia intestinalis. Symptomatology includes: Diarrhea, Fever, Fatigue, Dehydration, Abdominal cramps..
- Toxoplasmosis is caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. People with suppressed immune systems and infants whose mothers are infected during pregnancy suffer severe illness from this parasite. Most people infected with Toxoplasma, however, show no overt signs of disease.
Viral infections: Cats, as well as dogs and racoons for exemple, can transmit a well known disease to humans: Rabies, a viral disease that is spread through the bite of an infected animal. It’s a very serious disease for it’s almost always fatal if not treated on time. The diseases which attacks the Central Nervous System (CNS) causes among other severe symptoms, Hydrophobia (Fear of water), a condition where, people suffer Intense spasms in the throat that are triggered when trying to swallow. In order to protect human health, rabies vaccination of cats is required by law in many areas. Even if your cat is kept indoors, it is important to keep rabies vaccines current because cats occasionally escape outdoors
Minimize the risks: How To Prevent Cat Zoonoses
Now, as we live through pandemic times, COVID-19 and social distancing measures, it is always useful to keep in mind that some diseases are easily controlled if we play our part:
- Keep your pet cat healthy, visit the vet as often as required and keep in mind that a sick animal is an easier target to parasites and bacterial infections than a healthy one.
- Always handle your cat with care, avoid scratches and bites, don’t play too roughly on the animal and always screen yourself for anything suspicious.
- Avoid eating and drinking when playing with your cat, it may sound harsh, but it is efficient.
- Provide your cat with the optimal internal parasite treatment, and flea or tick products.
- A clean litter box is always requiered. Change it as often as it takes.
- Always use gloves when cleaning after your pet cat.
- Trim your cat’s claws as to avoid deep scratches.
- Read, Read and Read again. Documente yourself. Educate your family.
That is all for me for today.
Thanks for your good faith and read.