What Are Zoonosis in Cats?

The zoonosis are those diseases that can be transmitted directly or indirectly between animals and people. They can be produced by bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. In the case of cats, which are part of family life and with whom we share spaces, it is very important to know at least the most frequent ones, how they can affect both our pet and our family and follow certain guidelines to prevent them. Generally speaking, it is about maintaining proper hygiene, healthy eating, and complying with the vaccination and deworming plans recommended by the veterinarian.

What are the zoonosis in cats and their effects in humans?

  • Rage: It is a viral disease produced by a Lyssavirus of the Rhadoviridae Family that affects mammals and is transmitted by the bite or scratch of a sick animal. It is a deadly disease that has no curative treatment.
  • How it affects the cat: the disease goes through several phases of variable duration, begins with changes in behavior and appetite, becoming increasingly nervous and aggressive with people and other animals, excessive salivation, vomiting, fever, and ends up dying from an evolving paralysis.
  • Toxoplasmosis: It is an infection caused by Toxoplasma gondii, a protozoan with a biological cycle that, in summary, comprises two phases:
  1. The felines are the definitive hosts (Toxoplasma reproduces and lodges in their intestines) and they eliminate the oocysts of the parasite through the feces, which can contaminate the soil, water or food;
  2. Mammals, including man, and birds are the intermediate hosts ( Toxoplasma multiplies and lodges in tissues); they become infected by ingesting the oocysts, eliminated by cats, in water and plants or vegetables, and also by ingesting the meat of other mammals or birds that in turn are infected and carry cysts of the parasite inside. A cat that eats a mouse or a bird with cysts of the parasite in its tissues will shed oocysts outside again after a few days.

Affected cats usually show no symptoms.

In the case of people, the infection is caused by eating undercooked mammal or poultry meat or vegetables that have not been well washed, by drinking contaminated water and also by handling cat feces with oocysts. In addition, transplacental transmission may occur. Although the vast majority of immunocompetent and nonpregnant people have no symptoms, the effects can be severe (eye, brain, or generalized) in immunocompromised individuals or for children during pregnancy.

  • Feline leishmaniosis: It is a disease produced by several species of the protozoan Leishmania and that is transmitted by the bite of mosquitoes of the genus Phlebotomist. It also affects the dog (mainly), other mammals and man. In cats, the disease is usually rare, with the most frequent symptoms being inflammation of the lymph nodes, skin lesions, weight loss, eye lesions, and others. People become infected through the bite of sandflies, not through direct contact with dogs or cats.
  • Bartonellosis (cat scratch disease): Fleas inoculate cats with Bartonella henselae bacteria through bites. Cats carry the bacteria in their blood without showing symptoms. Transmission to people is not from the cat’s blood, but through scratches from the cat whose claws can carry flea feces contaminated with bacteria. In man it causes skin lesions, swollen glands and can affect various tissues and the liver very seriously.
  • Toxocariasis: Toxocara catiIt is a cat intestinal worm that can be transmitted to humans by the eggs shed by cats that they shed in their feces. Cats become infected by ingesting parasite host mice or eggs directly from contaminated areas. Kittens suffer the most from the disease, although highly parasitized adult cats can also do so. In any case, adult cats are a source of contamination. These are generally digestive symptoms due to the presence of worms in the intestine of cats, although there may also be other symptoms such as respiratory symptoms. Toxocariosis is a zoonosis that is very present in both developing and developed countries. People can be infected in several ways: by direct ingestion of eggs that contaminate the environment (soils, etc.), In people, the worms do not develop into adults, but the larvae that emerge from the ingested eggs pass through various tissues producing the so-called Larva Migrans Syndrome that presents several manifestations. Children are the sector of the population most at risk. Other examples of cat intestinal worms that can affect people are: Caninum (causes in people a very serious disease called multinodular echinococcosis) and Dipylidium (cats and people are infected by ingestion of fleas or lice with the larval stage).
  • Dermatophytosis: Microspore canis is the main fungus that causes dermatophytosis or “ringworm” in cats that produces skin lesions and can be transmitted to humans.

Prevention and tips

  • Visit the vet regularly and follow the monthly deworming plan. Ask for the Double Monthly Protection that ensures the right dose at the exact moment to protect your cat both externally and internally, minimizing the risk of zoonosis transmission.
  • Comply with your pet’s vaccination plan recommended by your veterinarian. Rabies vaccination in cats is mandatory by law in many areas of Spain and in many countries.
  • A healthy and balanced diet for their needs is essential so that your cat’s health does not fall to parasites.
  • Hygiene measures: cleaning the animal, its play areas and its accessories, as well as the litter box (taking care to use gloves). Wash our hands frequently.
  • Regularly check the condition of the hair and skin of our cat. Pay special attention in the event that our cat accesses the outside, has contact with other animals, can hunt or ingest mice or other animals, insects or food that we do not know.
  • In the event that we are going to travel with our cat, consult with the veterinarian about possible risks of diseases at the destination. In addition, we recommend that you especially remind children of the importance of all hygiene measures for their pet as well as for them and quickly disinfect wounds or stings.