Human Diseases Cats Can Catch
Types of Infections
- Bacteria - these include things like salmonella, listeria, e. coli, strep throat, tuberculosis, gonorrhea, and one form of meningitis.
- Viruses - these are smaller than bacteria and cause diseases such as the common cold, AIDS, herpes, and shingles.
- Fungal infections - These cause problems such as athlete's foot, ringworm, and jock itch.
- Parasites - We mainly think of worms with these: hookworms, roundworms, and tapeworms, but animals such as fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes are also parasites that spread diseases.
- Allergens - While not technically pathogens, allergens could be any substance to which an individual has sensitivity. Certain foods, dust, dust mites, and pollen all fall into this causative category.
What Human Diseases Can Cats Catch?
The main concern of the report listed above was animals in the food chain being infected. But since cats are obligate carnivores, it stands to reason that a threat to the health of animals raised to be meat would also threaten the cats that eat their meat.
Some of the diseases cats can catch from us are those that go both ways: we can infect each other with them. Here's a rundown of the most common zooanthroponotic diseases:
Vaping is popular now as a less-stinky alternative to cigarettes, but even that involves carcinogens. It has not been around long enough for us to yet know the long-term consequences of vaping.
E. coli (Escherichia coli)
Influenza (the flu)
MRSA (methycillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus)
Tuberculosis (TB, Myobacterium tuberculosis complex)
What to Do if You Suspect Your Cat Has Caught a Human Disease
Once back home, make sure your kitty's bedding area and potty are kept clean. Make fresh water available to kitty and encourage drinking plenty of it by using a fountain to give it some motion. A lot of cats don't want to eat when they're sick, but encourage the cat to eat by serving kitty's favorite meal. If the air is dry, consider using a humidifier...but do not diffuse essential oils, as many of those can be harmful to a cat's liver; with the cat already fighting off one infection, compromising the liver could prove fatal. And give your cat plenty of time to sleep, as this helps the body heal.
How to Protect Your Cat From Human Diseases
If you have any of the diseases mentioned above, try to prevent your cat from sleeping in the bed with you. This is easier said than done, as our cats tend to want to give us their healing purrs when they sense that we are sick. Hopefully, you have other family members who can care for the cats and distract them while you recuperate.
If someone in your human family has developed symptoms of one of the intestinal infections listed above, wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your cat. Keep kitty out of the bathroom when you are in there...again, easier said than done, but try. Keep the cats clear of the infected human and make sure the person's hands are clean. Disinfect clothing and household surfaces.
To avoid giving your kitty tuberculosis, avoid giving your cat unpasteurized cow's milk and be careful of where you source any raw meat you feed your cats.
In general, the same hygiene practices that protect us from spreading diseases between humans also protect our cats: frequent and thorough hand washing and a little extra care taken when sick not to expose your cats to the disease. The same goes for if you visit a sick person in the hospital, are hospitalized yourself, or work in a hospital.
If your cat is under additional stress (from things like moves, construction noise, grief, or household changes), you may consider giving kitty an immune-boosting supplement. While this won't prevent your cat from being exposed to diseases, it can help minimize the impact of any infections, helping your cat recover more quickly and with less severe symptoms.
How to Protect Yourself from Feline Diseases
Obviously, if you're fostering or adding a new cat to your household, keep the newcomer separate from your other cats and avoid too much contact until the cat has a health check by your vet. This will protect both you and your other feline companions.
Whenever you handle cat waste or food, always wash your hands thoroughly with soap afterward. And don't just run them under the water, spend a little time rubbing the soap all over the palms and backs of your hands, between all your fingers, and around your nails, to get to all the pathogens that may be present. I have read that singing the song "Happy Birthday to You" through while you're washing will keep you at it for the recommended amount of time. Washing your hands will take care of 90% of the danger of any infection from any diseases your cat may have.
Keep your household clean, as well: vacuum frequently and disinfect food surfaces daily and floors periodically. Completely empty and disinfect the interiors of litter boxes monthly, and refill them with fresh, clean litter. You can scoop and replace litter in between times, but toss it all when you clean the inside of the box.
It seems like new human diseases are being discovered all the time these days. Knowing which of them pose a risk for our cats is important. Armed with that knowledge, we can take the appropriate steps to protect our feline companions from harm.