Can cats cause diseases in humans?
Simple and short answer is Yes. Cats do cause a wide variety of zoonotic diseases in humans. In fact, cats are more hazardous in this aspect than most other pets, say a dog, or a parrot.
If you are a cat person, then this may feel like a kick in the guts. However, if you maintain a proper hygiene (of your cat, yourself and the house), and take essential precautions, you will easily steer clear of most of these medical hazards.
But knowing the potential health risks of owning a cat is the first step towards avoiding them. So, read on!
- Murine Typhus
- Cat Scratch Disease
- Mycoplasma haemofelis
- Protozoa parasites
Zoonotic diseases caused by Cats to Humans
Some of us are allergic to cat hair. But that’s easily detectable and probably such people will not own a cat at the first place. So, we won’t discuss it here.
The real danger lurks when we own a pet and get sick because of a third party. Cats carry a wide variety of germs and parasites that may make a human sick. The situation may even prove life-threatening at times. So, let’s have a look at the rent-free treacherous organisms that live in or on our cat, and the diseases they may cause in us (our focus will be more on the human diseases than those of the cats).
This disease is caused by a bacteria called Rickettsia typhi, which is found in the feces of some fleas infesting rats. If your cat comes in contact with such rats, it may also get infested with these fleas, which in turn can bite you.
Rickettsia typhi bacteria may enter your body from the bite wound caused by the fleas, or when you scratch your skin.
Murine Typhus disease can cause headache, fever, nausea, and body aches. You will see rashes on your body.
If spotted early, it can be treated using antibiotics.
Cat Scratch Disease
This disease is caused by a bacteria called Bartonella henselae, which is found in most of the cats. They may not even show the symptoms of this disease and just act as a carrier. It is basically caused by cat fleas. When a cat scratches his flea infested area, these bacteria gets accumulated in its mouth and beneath its nails.
If a cat scratches or bites a human breaking the skin, or licks in some open wounded area or scab, or areas such as eyes, this bacterium may enter our body. Recently, a woman in Ohio, USA lost sight in one of her eyes after her cat licked her on the eye.
Though children below 5 years of age, elders, and people with compromised immune systems are more susceptible to this disease.
This disease is caused by a parasite (which eventually grow in our intestine), and is seen pretty commonly in cats, dogs and humans. Cats may swallow fleas or rats infested with tapeworm. Such fleas may also transfer these parasites to us.
Luckily, treatment of tapeworms is pretty easy. There are many medicines available in the market and prescribed by doctors that either liquidify the tapeworm in the intestine itself, or make them come out in our stool.
We can also get many other parasites form out cats, such as Scabies causing human itch mite (Sarcoptes scabiei), Round worms, Hook worms, etc.
This disease is caused by a parasite. It can be transmitted to cats via fleas, ticks, or mosquitoes. Such ticks and fleas may also bite us, and transfer this parasite into our body.
This parasite attaches itself to our Red Blood Cells (RBCs), which causes our own immune system to attack our RBCs. This leads to reduction in the number of RBCs and hence anaemia.
However, this disease is more prevalent in cats than in humans. Only people with compromised immune systems are susceptible to this disease.
Salmonellosis is an infection with a bacteria called Salmonella. This bacteria is found in intestines of many animals, including cats. It gets there if your cat eats raw meat infected with this bacteria. That’s why we should avoid feeding our cat raw meat.
Cats thereafter pass on this bacteria in their feces. This may contaminate our food and other surroundings and enter our body (Though we can also get this directly from meat or eggs). So, always wash your hands properly after you clean up the litter box of your cat.
We can also get exposed to some protozoa parasites if we come in contact with cat feces. Some of these protozoa parasites are: cryptosporidiosis (causes diarrhea), giardiasis (causes diarrhea), toxoplasma (causes body aches, headaches, fever).
Toxoplasma is a more severe threat for pregnant women, and so if you are pregnant don’t even think about going near your cat’s litter box. Let others in your family do this cleaning stuff.
The list given above is not exhaustive in any way. These are only some of the most common diseases that humans are known to get from cats.
The aim of this article was to inform you of the potential hidden dangers of owning a cat. However, these diseases are rather rare and should not deter you from owning a kitten.
Just make sure you take requisite precautions. Wash your cat on a regular basis, disinfest your pet and house of fleas and ticks, always wash your hands before eating food, avoid getting licked by your cat, if your cat scratches you wash that part with soap and apply some antiseptic solution, use gloves while cleaning the litter box, etc.
Remember, precaution is always better than cure!
Cats have very sharp teeth and nails, and they can inject the parasites and bacteria pretty deep in our body. Cat bites and scratches are serious (even more than dog bites). So, as soon as you get a cat bite, wash the area thoroughly, and go and see a doctor. They will probably give you some antibiotic medicines.
Even if you don’t own a cat, these diseases can come to your doorstep via stray cats. These cats often urinate and defecate in our lawns and gardens and our kids can come in contact with it. As we all know, kids put all kinds of stuff in their mouth and don’t even bother to wash their hands too often. So, we grownups need to be vigilant.