Zoonotic Diseases and Cats

Zoonotic Diseases and Cats
Zoonotic Diseases and Cats
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Zoonotic Diseases and Cats

Zoonotic diseases are diseases that have the potential to be transferred from animals to humans. Though uncommon, several are commonly associated with contact with infected cats. Your medical doctor should be consulted for proper diagnosis and treatment.


Rabies is a virus that begins with an infection of a muscle, and then progresses to the peripheral nerves and ultimately to the brain and central nervous system. In most animals, Rabies is characterized by behavior changes and unexplained paralysis.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 93 percent of rabies cases are due to infection from contact with wild animals, while only 7 percent are from domestic animals.


Toxoplasma is an intestinal parasite that infects cats and many other mammals, including humans. The parasite is passed via the feces of the cat and human exposure can result in toxoplasmosis (consumption of undercooked beef is another exposure route). It is primarily a concern for pregnant women because if initial infection occurs to a woman during pregnancy, damage to her developing fetus may result. Litter box duty is best assigned to another household member for this reason during pregnancy.


Ringworm (dermatophytosis) is one of the more common zoonotic diseases associated with cats. Ringworm is a fungus that usually affects hair, nails, and skin. Young animals are more commonly infected. Humans typically experience a rash-like lesion. Diagnosis and treatment are usually straightforward.

Cat Scratch Disease

Cat sitting Cat scratch disease (also called “cat scratch fever”) is an infection following a bite or scratch or even a scratch by a surface contaminated by a cat. It is characterized by, red inflamed “tracks” leading from the wound, swollen lymph nodes and sometimes other signs (e.g.: fatigue, muscle pain, sore throat). In rare cases, cat scratch disease has been associated with tonsillitis, encephalitis, hepatitis, pneumonia and other serious illnesses. People with compromised immune systems may be especially vulnerable. Since cat scratch disease symptoms are similar to those of other diseases, diagnosis is difficult. As with all scratches and injuries, wash the area immediately with soap and warm water. Teach children to play gently with cats to avoid getting scratched.

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