Which Diseases Can You Catch from Your Cat?

The diseases you can catch from cats and dogs are easily avoidable if you take suitable precautions.
Which Diseases Can You Catch from Your Cat?

Last update: 04 November, 2019

Zoonoses are diseases that can be passed from animals to humans. If you have pets, it’s important to know how to prevent such diseases, whether it be through vaccinations or anti-parasite treatment. In this article, we want to tell you about some of the diseases you can catch from your cat.

How can you catch diseases from your cat?

Infectious diseases and parasites often have a long incubation period, lasting from the time the pathogen enters the body, to the moment the animal begins to experience symptoms.

During this time, the microorganism begins to multiply, before releasing its progeny through bodily secretions, urine, or feces. This is the time you are most likely to catch a disease from your pet, especially if the condition has a long incubation period.

There are several ways you can catch a disease from your pet, depending on the disease itself, and the severity of the illness. Some are easier to catch than others.

  • Direct contact.
  • Bodily fluids: saliva, feces, urine…
  • Indirect contact: via a vector – an organism that transmits the disease, but doesn’t actually cause it, such as mosquitoes, ticks, fleas or other animals.

Diseases that spread more quickly and affect higher numbers of animals are generally spread through direct or indirect contact.

Some street cats.

Diseases you can catch from your cat


Toxoplasmosis is a fairly common disease. However, it is often asymptomatic, and frequently goes unnoticed. If the animal does display symptoms, they are normally mild, flu-like symptoms.

Toxoplasmosis is caused by a protozoa, known as Toxoplasma gondii. In children, the elderly and the immuno-compromised, it can be extremely serious, with symptoms similar to lymphoma. In pregnant women, it can cause miscarriages or malformations of the fetus.

Cats become infected when they eat rats, birds, or infected raw meat. Humans often catch it through infected cat feces, although it’s also present in unwashed vegetables, raw meat, and unpasteurized milk.

Protozoa multiply in the cat’s intestines, forming cysts which then leave the body in feces or travel around the body in the bloodstream until they reach a muscle.

Bartonellosis: cat scratch disease

Caused by Bartonella bacteria, cats often catch bartonellosis through flea bites. They can also become infected during fights with other cats, where open wounds are more likely to come into contact with infected blood. Bartonellosis is also asymptomatic in cats, although they may have a fever for two or three days.

In more severe cases, cats may also display symptoms such as vomiting, lethargy, red eyes, swollen lymph nodes and anorexia. However, this is fairly rare.

Humans can catch bartonellosis through cat scratches. They usually experience symptoms such as fever, swollen lymph nodes and pustules around the area of the scratch. In rare cases, the disease can spread to the eyes or cause encephalitis.

To prevent cat scratch disease, you should:

  • Treat your cat with flea treatment at least once a month to prevent infestations.
  • Keep your pet inside to prevent fights with stray cats. Castration can also be a good option.
  • Keep your cat’s nails short.

To avoid catching bartonellosis from an infected cat, try not to let them scratch you. If this does occur, be sure to wash the wound thoroughly. If it starts to look infected, be sure to consult with a doctor.

Ringworm and mange

These diseases are highly contagious, even between people. Ringworm is caused by a type of fungus, while mange is caused by mites. A cat suffering from ringworm or mange will have itchy skin lesions and bald patches.


Like dogs, cats can also spread rabies. However, this disease is fairly rare, thanks to compulsory annual vaccinations.

A cat at the vet.

Most of the other illnesses you can catch from your cat are caused by flea or tick bites. Flea collars or antiparasitic pipette treatments are an effective way to prevent these.

Allergies to cat fur or saliva are also fairly common. Your doctor will be able to arrange allergy tests to confirm.

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