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Cats + Zoonosis & Human Health

  • Tularemia is an infection of the bacteria Francisella tularensis and is most common in rabbits and rodents. Infection in cats occurs from ingestion of an infected animal, contaminated water, or the bite of a blood sucking insect. Tularemia causes acute illness, enlarged lymph nodes, abdominal pain, jaundice, and organ system failure. Diagnosis includes physical exam, baseline bloodwork, and urine tests, as well as paired serum titers. PCR can also be used to identify the bacteria in a blood sample. Treatment requires hospitalization and supportive care including IV fluids and antibiotics. Prognosis is guarded to poor depending on how early treatment is initiated. Tularemia is a reportable zoonotic disease.

  • Vaccines are necessary to reduce infectious disease-caused illnesses in cats. They work by stimulating the body's immune system to recognize and fight a particular microorganism such as a virus, bacteria, or other infectious organisms. Depending on the disease, the vaccine will help the body prevent infection or lessen the severity of the infection and promote rapid recovery. The American Association of Feline Practitioners has established vaccination guidelines for cats, some of which depend on a cat's lifestyle and where it lives.

  • Whipworms are intestinal parasites measuring about 1/4 inch (6 mm) in length. They live in the intestinal tract of cats where they can cause severe irritation. Whipworm infection results in watery diarrhea, weight loss, and general debilitation. Fecal testing will not detect every infection. Whipworm infection in cats is rare in North America but cases appear to be rising.

  • A zoonosis is a disease or infection that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Although cats only pose a mild risk of causing disease in humans, those with immunosuppressive conditions such as HIV or those receiving chemotherapy are at higher risk of becoming ill from these infections. The most common and significant infections that humans can get from their cats include rabies, cat scratch disease, toxoplasmosis, and ringworm. Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) are not zoonotic. Hygiene plays an important role in preventing the spread of these diseases, as well as preventive medicine for your cat, including regular deworming and external parasite preventives. Keep your cat indoors to minimize exposure to zoonotic diseases.