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Zoonotic diseases you can catch from cats

Most diseases are species specific so that most human diseases cannot infect our cats and vice versa. Some disease however are capable of infecting more than one species including humans. Such diseases are called Zoonotic diseases

What diseases can I catch from my cat?

Cat Scratch Fever

Bartonellosis or cat scratch fever or subacute regional lymphadenitis is likely the most common zoonotic disease that humans can catch from a cat. Cat scratch bacteria can of course be transmitted from one cat to another as well.

A significant number of cats carry the bacteria without showing any symptoms. More shelter and wild cats are carriers than home / kennel bred cats.

Cats get infected though fleas (and probably ticks) and from bites from infected cats.

When Bartonella henselae, the cat scratch fever bacteria, infects people, the most common signs infections are fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, joint pain, headaches and nausea. The bite or scratch area can also be red and inflamed with small raised bumps.

The usual way of being infected is being bitten or scratched by a cat. Often people rough-housing with a cat or kitten are exposed. Younger cats and kittens are more likely to carry the bacteria than older cats. About half the cats carry the bacteria even if they show no signs of being sick.

Another way of being infected is probably through flea bites. This has not been widely studied but fleas can carry the bacteria and likely can transmit it.

Another way of getting exposed to cat scratch fever is by petting an infected cat and then rubbing your eyes, or touching an open sore or wound.

For the most part it is not a particularly dangerous disease for healthy adults and people who have been around cats all their lives have some immunity.

The danger is to people with reduced immune systems, such as people who are ill, have HIV, older adults, or people with compromised immune system.

For most people the disease heals by itself and over a period of time all the symptoms disappear.

In more serious cases cat scratch fever is aggressively treated with antibiotics. It has the potential of being very serious and any cat scratch or bite should be monitored after washing the area vigorously with soap and water.

To reduce risks, treat your animals for fleas and try not to get scratched or bitten. If you can stand it, stay away from cats.

Healthline page on Cat Scratch Fever

Cat Scratch Disease or Fever in Dogs and Other Animals

Bartonellosis is not restricted to cats and humans. Dogs have a history of getting infected and humans can catch it from dogs as well as cats. In dogs the symptoms are much the same as in humans.

It is not clear how humans catch Cat Scratch Fever from dogs, it is likely through a bite but since ticks and fleas can also transmit the disease it is possible to get it from insect bites. article on Bartonella Infection in Dogs

Dogs catch the infection mainly from fleas, ticks, lice and sand flies. It is good to treat dogs for fleas and ticks regularly.

In addition to cats and dogs, many domestic and wild animals, including cattle and rodent as well as wild canine species such as wolves and coyotes species can serve as reservoir hosts for various Bartonella species.


Salmonella is an extremely common bacteria that exists in many environments. Most infections in humans come from raw and undercooked foods from animal sources. It is common on uncooked chicken and other meats such as hamburger. It can also occur in raw milk and milk products as well as in some egg and egg products. It has been found in fruit and some frozen foods.

Most human salmonella infections come as food poisoning. Eating raw or not sufficiently cooked foods is the main mode of transmission. Salmonella can also be transmitted through dirty water.

Symptoms of salmonella in humans include diarrhea, fever, depression, vomiting, and lack of appetite, symptoms in infected cats are similar although people are most likely to notice diarrhea.

Cats are among many animals that can be carriers of salmonella. Reptiles and amphibians such as turtles have often been identified as salmonella carriers.

Cats that eat raw meat or catch mice and other animals are more likely to be carriers of salmonella. Inside cats are less likely to have been exposed.

You can be exposed to salmonella when handling kitty litter or coming in contact with cat waste. Care should be taken to wash your hands after handling kitty litter, wearing gloves is also a good idea as is avoiding breathing litter dust.

There are many different varieties of salmonella bacteria, some more dangerous than others but most infections are mild and people recover without any medical treatment required.

People with lowered immune systems such as young and old folks, and people with suppressed immunity are also at risk. In such cases, salmonella infection can be quite serious and medical help needs to be sought.

Cats can also suffer from salmonellosis

If you know that your cat is infected then keeping his area including the litter, very clean and keeping people with lowered immune systems away are your best bet.

Campylobacter infection

This is another bacterial which can infect cats, humans and many other animals. It is mainly a poultry and bird disease though.

Sumptoms include diarrhea, cramps, abdominal pain, and fever. It can also cause nausea and vomiting.

Transmission is almost always through eating undercooked poultry or by contact or inadvertent ingestion of fecal matter. Cross contamination that is contamination through contact with infected meat such as a dirty chopping board, is also possible. Raw milk can be infected if the milk has come in contact with manure or if the cow has in infected udder.

Most cases of Campylobateriosis are not very serious and people infected recover within a few days. As usual people with immature or compromised immune systems are more at risk.

Here is the link from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Rabies is a viral infection that can infect all species of mammals including farm animals, cat, dogs, bats, foxes, raccoons and many wild animals and humans. Rabies is a serious, always fatal disease that is transmitted through saliva, milk, or other body fluids of infected animals. It can be completely prevented by vaccination. Keeping an unvaccinated animal indoors will almost eliminate chances of exposure, however bats and mice or other rodents can transmit the disease.

I had to be treated because I was bit by an unknown cat. Not much fun. Here is my account of Preventative Rabies Treatment.


Turalemia is a disease that can be transmitted through fleas and ticks as well as other more direct contact.

Turalemia Information link.

It is also known as Rabbit Fever. This bacterial infection is quite rare but can be quite dangerous. Many animals can carry it including rabbits, (hence the name,) rodents, dogs and cats. In cats it is quite a dangerous disease and can be transmitted to humans.

Transmission occus by fleas and ticks, or direct contact with an infected animal or a dead one. Infection can occur through a break in the skin, mouth, throat and lungs, as well as by ingestion or inhalation of the bacteria or by drinking contaminated water. Infections to humans is most commonly caused by ticks.

Parasitic Infections


Fleas are the most common parasite that humans and cats can share. Although fleas cannot live and reproduce from human blood they certainly do well with cat blood.

Cats are not alone in their ability to have fleas and the same flea that attacks cats is also one that lives on dogs and raccoons.

Fleas can carry and share a number of zoonotic infections. One of the most common is the tapeworm. Cats can get tapeworms from fleas when the ingest them when grooming. Humans can also get tapeworm the same way. It's probably not very common though. Most infections to humans are the result of ingesting feces or feces contaminated material, such as sand in a sandbox, or water, and occur most often in children.

Another disease carried by fleas and not common at all is plague. Humans and cats among many others animals, are both capable of getting plague.

Also fairly uncommon, Murine Typhus is transmitted by infected fleas. More common if your cat hunts rats from which she can pick up infected fleas. Article on Murine typhus


Ticks can transfer diseases from one animal to another. Lyme disease is very uncommon in cats but is possible. Although there is no evidence of a cat directly transmitting lyme disease to a human it is possible to get transmission from infected blacklegged ticks. Infection through fleas or mosquitoes has not been shown.

Dogs are also suscesptible to Lyme Disease.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention article on Lyme Disease.

Fleas, ticks and mosquitoes can all transmit diseases because they effectively inject blood products in their prey and can transfer some diseases from prey to prey. If you control these insects either by reducing your cat's access to the oudoors or by controlling fleas and ticks and using safe cat repellent such as catnip based products, you help protect yourself and your cat.


Feline roundworm can infect people if an egg from cat fecal matter is ingested. Although the worm never matures in humans, the immature larvae migrate around. Because humans are not suitable hosts the larvae cannot mature and migrate around the body causing damage.

Feline hookworms larvae are capable of digging through the skin and infecting humans. Again they are not capable of maturing and cause damage as they migrate around as immature worms.

One tapeworm species can establish in humans but an egg has to be ingested. Eggs are passed through cat feces and can infect play areas.


One parasite carried by dogs and cats and other animals, that can be transmitted to humans is Toxoplasma gondii It is a single cell organism that is extremely common and many people have been exposed. The real danger is to pregnant women. Serious damage to the baby including miscarriage, stillbirth, brain damage or blindness to the baby can occur if a previously un-infected mother is infected during pregnancy.

Toxoplasmosis is not only carried by cats, rather it can be contracted by handling infected raw meat, by exposure to dog feces, drinking contaminated water, or by the ingestion of infected meat including rabbit and lamb.

OMG My Cat is Going to Kill Me!!! How Can I Avoid Catching A Disease from My Cat or Dog.

Luckily for cat and dog lovers everywhere, this is NOT THE CASE.

Humans and Cats and Dogs have lived together happily and safely for a very long time. Reading an article such as this awakens paranoia in the sanest of humans just as reading a list of symptoms makes you feel you are probably dying.

Most people have robust enough immune systems to deal with exposure. When exposure occurs disease does not necessarily develop and usually is mild and short lasting if the disease manifests itself at all. If you or your cat are sick then seek medical advice otherwise don't worry and enjoy your pets. They are good for your health.

Without becoming obsessive, there is a great deal that can be done to avoid getting sick.

Vaccinate your Animals

This will eliminate any danger of them transmitting Rabies to you

Treat for Fleas and Ticks

Fleas and Ticks are uncomfortable and can carry all kinds of nasty stuff including tapeworm and lyme disease and turalemia, among other things.

There are many ways of controlling fleas and ticks. Here is a link to my Flea control page. One of the most effective way is with the drops between the shoulder blades once a month during flea season.

Regular inspection will help find ticks and fleas, while treatment and vacuuming of animal bedding and areas they hang out in will help control fleas.

Inside cats and dogs are far less likely to catch fleas or ticks or be bitten by mosquitoes that can also carry disease.

It is sometimes difficult to always keep your cats inside. I find that cats that are used to going outside will understand and accept limited outside time particularly if the outside hours are regular.

Outside pens and runs can be better controlled and kept clean, and will limit exposure to infected animals and will reduce the risk of cats and dogs catching and eating wild animals and drinking dirty water, or rolling in dead things.

Reduce your Exposure to Animal Waste and Feces

Most parasites are transmitted through feces. Careful handling and disposal of animal waste goes a long way in avoiding infection. Avoiding wild animal droppings is also important.

Wash your hands. It's easy and the most important thing you can do to prevent exposure to animal waste.

Cover any sandbox to keep cats and dogs from contaminating the area.

Don't drink dirty water even if it looks clean. Lots of birds and other animal waste end up in the water either as run off or directly.

If You Have a Sick Animal, or are Adopting a New One see Your Vet

Keep a careful eye on any sick pet or animal and get help .

Most rescued animals have had some exposure to fleas, ticks, parasites and diseased animals. Get your vet to check them out vaccinate them and treat anything that needs treating.

Beware of Raw Chicken and other raw meat.

Raw or insuficiently cooked chicken, hamburger, and many other meats can transmit any number of nasty disease. Raw milk is also a potential problem. This applies to you but also to your pet. What you can catch so can your pet.

Explain to your cat that although it is good to catch mice or rabbit, he should not eat it since many wild animals have various infections and parasites that can be transmitted to cats and dogs.

Trichinosis is a parasitic worm that we know mostly from eating badly cooked pork. It is also present in many other animals including bear meat. It is a potential danger to cats and dogs who eat mice and rats. Trichinosis will not be transmitted by contact though, only by eating infected meat.

Link to Trichinellosis in Cats from Merck Vet Manual .com

While you're explaining to the cat get the dog to listen too and explain that rolling around in dead rabbits or other animals is a way of coming in contact with Turalemia. It is not a very serious disease of dogs but it can be quite deadly to cats and humans. article on Turalemia.


Common hygiene and common sense will look after almost all dangers of catching a disease from your cat. Your kid caughing near you is more likely to make you sick! Vaccinate your cat (and your kids), wash your hands, don't eat raw meat or drink dirty water, and treat your cat for fleas and ticks, Keep fleas out of the house then enjoy your cat. You cat brings you more benefits than dangers and having a cat around has been shown to increase your lifespan.

This article is presented for information and entertainment only. I'm not a vet and am not an expert on cat diseases. IF your cat is sick, see a vet. Mr. Google is not a good place to look for treatments. I try to get my information from good sources. This article relies heavily on the Centres for Disease Control.