Is it possible for humans to get sick because of the pet? Do cats carry diseases? The disease that can be transmitted by cats to humans is one of the reasons why people that have found stray cats are always advised to get the stray to a veterinary facility. The animal has to have a clean bill of health before it can be taken home because of the possibility that it can be a carrier of diseases that would endanger not only the other house pets but humans as well. Cats, like other animals can carry bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites that can be transmitted to the human family.
Cats have become very popular pets. These animals are found in about 1/3 of the households in the US. Some families would even have more than one pet cat. Exposure to these animals though can result to various infectious diseases. Diseases are mostly species specific. Infectious diseases of humans cannot be transmitted to animals in the same manner that some diseases specific to animals would not affect humans. However, humans have to lookout for zoonotic diseases. Zoonotic diseases are diseases that can be transmitted from animals to man. The diseases that cats carry can be transferred to humans through bites or scratch or through contact with the infected animal’s feces and saliva. Infants, children, pregnant women and people with suppressed immune system are more susceptible to zoonotic diseases.
What diseases can cats transmit to humans? Viral and bacterial infections, fungal infections and protozoal infections are cat-borne diseases that can affect humans. Bartolenosis commonly known as cat scratch disease is the most common disease that can be transmitted by cats. As what is suggested by the name, the infection is transmitted through the bite or scratch of an infected cat. Headache, fever, poor appetite and sore muscles and joints are the clinical signs of this disease that causes the swelling of the lymph nodes. Fleas are common external parasites of cats. Humans are not ideal hosts of fleas but these parasites can still feed on human blood and cause severe itching especially on people with hypersensitivity to flea saliva. Additionally, fleas are the intermediate hosts of tapeworms. Humans that inadvertently ingest a tapeworm-larva carrying flea would be infected by this intestinal parasite. Viruses normally infect only the host species. Viruses that cause human cold would only infect humans. Humans would be free from feline infectious peritonitis virus, feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukemia virus as these infectious agents only infect cats. However, rabies, a dreaded viral disease can be transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected cat. This viral disease that attacks the nervous system is almost always fatal. Once the bitten person has started showing the clinical signs of the disease, treatment would no longer be possible. Cryptosporidiosis, giardiasis, and toxoplasmosis are the most common diseases caused by a single celled organism that can be transmitted by cats to humans. Fungi infections on the coat and skin of the cat can be transmitted to humans as well. Owners have the tendency to cuddle and to pet the cat. These fungal infections can be transmitted through direct contact.
These zoonotic diseases should not prevent a cat lover from enjoying the company of a cat. Cat owners can avoid these diseases without removing the cat from the household. Good hygiene is one good way of preventing not only the humans but the cat as well from getting these diseases. For the maintenance of the health of the pet, owners must ensure that the pet has regular veterinary check up. The importance of washing the hands after touching the pet cannot be stressed enough. Cat lovers would always want to help a stray cat but these animals must never be taken home until they are given a clean bill of health by a vet.