Library

Cats + Zoonosis & Human Health

  • Ringworm infections in cats are caused by a fungus, not a worm. They can be easily recognized, though definitive testing by fungal culture is recommended. Ringworm is highly contagious and can be spread between animals and from animals to people. The clinical signs, diagnosis, treatment, and risks are explained in this handout.

  • Roundworms are one of the most common intestinal parasites observed in cats. Almost all cats will become infected with roundworms at some point in their life, most often as kittens. Roundworms are not particularly harmful to adult cats, but large numbers may cause life-threatening problems in kittens and debilitated older cats. Roundworms can also be transmitted to humans. Diagnostic testing, treatment, and preventive measures are explained in this handout.

  • H1N1 influenza virus emerged in pigs as a genetic sharing of DNA from both human and swine influenza viruses. It caused a deadly pandemic in 2009 and continues to be an important cause of illness today. Pets including cats and dogs can be infected from their owners and become ill. It is not yet thought to transfer from pets to humans. Because influenza viruses appear to be capable of swapping genes, there is potential for new variants of influenza viruses to be generated at any time leading to another pandemic of severe disease in humans and other animals. Good hygiene and exposure restriction should be taken immediately if there is any sign of influenza-like infection to restrict spread between humans and between humans and their pets or domestic animals.

  • Tapeworms are parasites that infect the gastrointestinal tract of cats, other animals, and humans. Several types of tapeworms are known to infect pets, but the most common species observed in cats is Dipylidium caninum, which is transmitted through fleas. Risk factors, clinical signs, treatment, and prevention are explained in this handout. Other, less common types of tapeworms that affect cats and humans are also covered.

  • **This article has been specifically written for pet sitters and how they can reduce their exposure to COVID-19.** COVID-19 is a new respiratory disease in humans, initially discovered late in 2019. Although all coronaviruses are related, they are not all the same virus. As a pet sitter, it is important to limit direct contact with your clients. People can shed the virus without showing any symptoms of disease, so it is important to practice physical distancing even with clients who appear healthy. It is also important to limit your contact with potentially contaminated items in your clients’ homes, whether they are at home or not. The most important things you can do to minimize your risk of infection, and minimize the risk of transferring infection to your clients, is to be cautious when interacting with clients and when touching anything that could be contaminated, wear a mask, and maintain at least 6 feet distance from your clients. Communicate with your clients regularly during this pandemic. Having information about your clients’ health can help you avoid taking unnecessary risks. Finally, if you develop any signs of COVID-19, including cough, fever, and/or shortness of breath, it is important that you stay home from work.

  • Tularemia is an infection of the bacteria Francisella tularensis and is most common in rabbits and rodents. Infection in cats occurs from ingestion of an infected animal, contaminated water, or the bite of a blood sucking insect. Tularemia causes acute illness, enlarged lymph nodes, abdominal pain, jaundice, and organ system failure. Diagnosis includes physical exam, baseline bloodwork, and urine tests, as well as paired serum titers. PCR can also be used to identify the bacteria in a blood sample. Treatment requires hospitalization and supportive care including IV fluids and antibiotics. Prognosis is guarded to poor depending on how early treatment is initiated. Tularemia is a reportable zoonotic disease.

  • Vaccines are necessary to reduce infectious disease-caused illnesses in cats. They work by stimulating the body's immune system to recognize and fight a particular microorganism such as a virus, bacteria, or other infectious organisms. Depending on the disease, the vaccine will help the body prevent infection or lessen the severity of the infection and promote rapid recovery. The American Association of Feline Practitioners has established vaccination guidelines for cats, some of which depend on a cat's lifestyle and where it lives.

  • A zoonosis is a disease or infection that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Although cats only pose a mild risk of causing disease in humans, those with immunosuppressive conditions such as HIV or those receiving chemotherapy are at higher risk of becoming ill from these infections. The most common and significant infections that humans can get from their cats include rabies, cat scratch disease, toxoplasmosis, and ringworm. Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) are not zoonotic. Hygiene plays an important role in preventing the spread of these diseases, as well as preventive medicine for your cat, including regular deworming and external parasite preventives. Keep your cat indoors to minimize exposure to zoonotic diseases.