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Cats + Zoonosis & Human Health

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stand united in their position that feeding raw food to cats is potentially dangerous to both the cat and to you. In the most recent study conducted, nearly 25% of the raw food samples tested positive for harmful bacteria, including Salmonella ssp. and Listeria monocytogenes.

  • Cat bites are puncture wounds that can cause bacterial infections with Pasteurella multocida that can spread within the tissues or into the blood stream. Any bite should be cleaned immediately and assessed by a physician as soon as possible, as antibiotics are frequently needed to treat infection. Your doctor may recommend vaccination with tetanus or rabies prophylaxis. Your doctor will report any bite to the local health department and your cat will have to undergo a quarantine – the length of which depends on their rabies vaccination status.

  • Cat scratch disease (CSD) is caused by the bacteria, Bartonella that is transmitted by cat fleas and other biting insects. Cats act as reservoirs for the bacteria. Humans are exposed to the bacteria through flea feces contaminating skin lesions or their eyes. Signs include fever, lethargy, enlarged lymph nodes, and lesions on the conjunctiva and skin. The disease is usually self-limiting; however, some people will require antibiotics especially if they are immunocompromised. Tests are available for diagnosis in humans as well as in cats. Strict flea control, good hygiene, keeping your cat indoors, and keeping your cat’s nails trimmed are among the most important ways to try to prevent CSD.

  • The birth of a baby or the adoption of a new child is associated with a great deal of anxiety, excitement, and stress for not only the family, but also the family pet. Some dogs and cats can have a difficult time adjusting to these changes, especially if this is your first child, but preparation and planning will help.

  • Coccidiosis is an intestinal tract infection caused by a one-celled organism or protozoa called coccidia. Coccidia are microscopic parasites that live within the cells that line the intestine. Many cats that are infected with coccidia do not have diarrhea or any other clinical signs. When the oocysts are found in the stool of a cat without diarrhea, they are generally considered a transient, insignificant finding. However, in kittens and debilitated adult cats, coccidiosis can cause severe, watery diarrhea, dehydration, abdominal distress, and vomiting. Kittens are commonly diagnosed with coccidiosis. The most common drug used to treat coccidiosis is a sulfa-class antibiotic, sulfadimethoxine. Cats are frequently reinfected from the environment, so disinfection is important.

  • Diarrhea is unformed or loose bowel movements, usually with increased amount and frequency. It is a result of faster movement of fecal material through the intestine combined with decreased absorption of water, nutrients, and electrolytes. Diarrhea is not a disease, but rather is a sign of many different diseases. Causes of diarrhea may be determined through a combination of history, physical examination, and fecal testing. Diarrhea is often treated symptomatically with dewormers, probiotics, metronidazole or tylosin, and a special gastrointestinal diet. Chronic diarrhea, that has been present longer than two to three weeks, may prove more difficult to diagnose and treat effectively.

  • Echinococcus multilocularis is a tapeworm species that is found in the Northern Hemisphere. Dogs, cats, and humans are all susceptible to E. multilocularis infection, along with additional species. While the parasite typically produces no clinical sign in cats, it can have life-threatening effects in humans. E. multilocularis is impossible to distinguish from other tapeworm species without specialized testing, but it responds to the same dewormers that are used to treat other tapeworm species. Therefore, pets suspected of having tapeworms should be treated promptly and care should be taken to avoid direct contact with animal feces.

  • Giardiasis is an intestinal infection of man and animals cased by a microscopic protozoan parasite Giardia duodenalis. Giardia is a simple one-celled parasitic species; it is not a "worm", bacteria, or virus. Giardiasis can be an important cause of diarrhea in animals and humans. However, many cats are infected without developing clinical signs or the diarrhea is treated as 'non-specific'.

  • Vaccinations are important to prevent serious illness in cats. Even cats that spend 100% of their time indoors should be vaccinated. Some viruses can be carried into your home on inanimate objects such as shoes and clothing, therefore infecting your cat without her coming into contact with another animal. Rabies is deadly for both cats and humans and can be transmitted by a rabid bat that makes its way into your home. Your veterinarian is your most important resource in determining what vaccinations need to be given to your cat to keep her protected.

  • This handout is designed to give you an overview of some of the internal parasites that can infect your cat. Intestinal worms can be a serious problem in young kittens. Heartworm disease is a major life-threatening problem in dogs, and is increasingly recognized as a threat to cats. Speak to your veterinarian about the most appropriate parasite control program for your cat.