Diseases transmitted by cats

Diseases transmitted by cats

Last update: 28 July, 2018

Cats and humans have enjoyed each other’s company for thousands of years. Over the last century, cats have become one of the most popular animals for pets. But unfortunately, sometimes things can go bad. In fact, diseases transmitted by cats can be quite serious.

Allegedly, 35% of the world population has had a cat at some point in their life, which means that it’s likely they’ve had some disease associated with cats at some point as well. Of course, we’re not saying this is the norm, but today we’ll share information on what diseases cats can spread to humans.

Diseases transmitted by cats

Cats, despite being wonderful life companions, sometimes come with dangerous diseases. Many of them are spread through direct contact, like touching them or being scratched by them. But there are other means of transmission, too.

Handling a cat’s urine or feces improperly is one way disease spreads. They are full of bacteria and possibly parasites, all of which can be quite harmful to the human body.

Cats can also spread disease through the air. This mode of transmission is significant because that’s how major pandemics like the bird flu and H1N1 spread from person to person. Below, we’ll talk a little about three different diseases transmitted by cats.

Lyme disease

Lyme disease is a bacterial disease usually transmitted through tick bites. Cats, though, can also transmit it if a tick bites them and infects them. So when you adopt a cat, it’s best to check for parasites on his skin and get him tested if necessary.

Diseases transmitted by cats.

The bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi causes Lyme disease. However, note that not all ticks carry it. They only do if they have fed on an animal with this bacteria in its blood. The disease has three stages or degrees of infection:

  • Early or localized: the disease has not yet spread throughout the body.
  • Early disseminated: the disease is spreading throughout the body.
  • Late disseminated: the disease is in all parts of the body.

Symptoms include headaches, joint and muscle pain, fever, nausea and general malaise. Once the disease develops, the typical red ring may appear in the area of ​​the bite.

If a person doesn’t get timely treatment, Lyme disease can be life-threatening. The bacteria can affect their heart and brain, possibly leading to cardiac arrest or cognitive and speech issues.


Out of all the diseases transmitted by cats, toxoplasmosis is one of the most common — and most serious. The parasite toxoplasma gondii causes it, which affects pregnant women most seriously. As for transmission, direct contact with a cat’s feces is how it happens.

toxoplasmosis: a woman with her cat.

For a healthy person, it’s not usually a big problem, but for pregnant women and people with HIV, it can be deadly. Pregnant women risk miscarriage, and people with HIV risk brain infections.

The symptoms of toxoplasmosis look like the flu: fever and weakness are the most common. To get an accurate diagnosis, see a doctor, who will then be able to recommend the best course of action.


Cats can also transmit rabies. The rhabdovirus causes it, and infection happens via direct contact with saliva of a cat with it. Rabies is common in pets, and quite lethal, but fortunately it’s uncommon in humans.

cat that bites

Symptoms in both cats and humans include:

  • Aggressiveness
  • Hyperactivity
  • Fever
  • Paralysis
  • Difficulty breathing

The disease progresses for a couple of days before causing death. The good news is that there is a preventative vaccine available for both humans and animals.

If you suspect that you have of one these diseases transmitted by cats, it’s vital that you see a doctor and talk to a vet so that you can find out what the best course of action is.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.