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Cats: Comprehensive Information and Guidelines

Research has demonstrated that cats not only serve as companions but also provide emotional support, uplift moods, and contribute to the overall well-being of their owners. Additionally, cats are acknowledged for fostering socialization, particularly among older individuals and those with physical or mental disabilities. In the United States, almost 40 million households have pet cats.

However, it’s essential for cat owners to be aware that cats can sometimes carry harmful germs, leading to various illnesses in humans, ranging from minor skin infections to severe conditions. To mitigate these risks, practicing good hygiene, such as thorough handwashing after interacting with cats, is crucial. Regular veterinary care for cats, following Healthy People tips, further minimizes the likelihood of illness transmission through touch, petting, or ownership.


  1. Campylobacteriosis (Campylobacter spp.)
    • How it spreads: Contact with infected animal feces, contaminated food, or water.
    • At-risk individuals: Children under 5, adults over 65, and those with weakened immune systems.
    • Signs in cats: May show no signs or have bloody diarrhea.
    • Symptoms in people: Diarrhea (often bloody), fever, stomach cramps.
  2. Cat Scratch Disease (Bartonella henselae)
    • How it spreads: Through flea bites, fights with infected cats, or contact with cat saliva.
    • At-risk individuals: Children, adolescents, and those with weakened immune systems.
    • Signs in cats: Often asymptomatic; may have fever or swollen lymph nodes.
    • Symptoms in people: Skin bump at the scratch site, lymph node swelling, fever.
  3. Cat Tapeworm (Dipylidium caninum)
    • How it spreads: Ingestion of infected fleas.
    • At-risk individuals: Rare, mainly children.
    • Signs in dogs: Detected through segments near the anus.
    • Symptoms in people: Rare; rice-like tapeworm segments in feces.
  4. Cryptosporidiosis (Cryptosporidium spp.)
    • How it spreads: Swallowing contaminated feces, water, or food.
    • At-risk individuals: People with weakened immune systems.
    • Signs in cats: Rare; can be asymptomatic.
    • Symptoms in people: Profuse diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting.
  5. Giardiasis (Giardia duodenalis)
    • How it spreads: Through contaminated water, food, or contact with infected individuals.
    • At-risk individuals: International travelers, those in contact with diapers, and those drinking untreated water.
    • Signs in cats: Diarrhea, greasy stools.
    • Symptoms in people: Diarrhea, gas, abdominal discomfort.
  6. Hookworm (Ancylostoma tubaeforme, Ancylostoma braziliense, Uncinaria stenocephala)
    • How it spreads: Contact with contaminated soil.
    • At-risk individuals: Anyone.
    • Signs in cats: Anemia, weight loss.
    • Symptoms in people: Itchy reaction, red squiggly line at the larval migration site.
  7. MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus)
    • How it spreads: Direct contact with infected individuals or animals.
    • At-risk individuals: Anyone.
    • Signs in cats: Often asymptomatic; potential for skin, respiratory, and urinary tract infections.
    • Symptoms in people: Skin infections; rarely, pneumonia or other severe issues.
  8. Plague (Yersinia pestis)
    • How it spreads: Flea bites, contact with infected animals.
    • At-risk individuals: People in the western US, hunters, those with animal contact.
    • Signs in cats: Fever, lethargy, swollen lymph nodes.
    • Symptoms in people: Fever, swollen lymph nodes, headache.
  9. Rabies
    • How it spreads: Primarily through bites.
    • At-risk individuals: Rare in the US; contact with infected wild animals.
    • Signs in cats: Sudden behavioral changes, paralysis.
    • Symptoms in people: Neurological symptoms; fatal once symptoms appear.
  10. Ringworm
    • How it spreads: Direct contact or from the environment.
    • At-risk individuals: Anyone.
    • Signs in cats: Hair loss, scaly skin.
    • Symptoms in people: Itchy, red, ring-shaped rash; potential nail infections.
  11. Roundworms (Toxocara spp.)
    • How it spreads: Swallowing roundworm eggs.
    • At-risk individuals: Anyone.
    • Signs in cats: Usually asymptomatic.
    • Symptoms in people: Ocular or visceral toxocariasis; eye, liver, lung, or central nervous system issues.
  12. Salmonellosis (Salmonella spp.)
    • How it spreads: Contaminated food or contact with animal feces.
    • At-risk individuals: Children, older adults, those with weakened immune systems.
    • Signs in cats: Often asymptomatic; kittens may have diarrhea.
    • Symptoms in people: Diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps.
  13. Sporotrichosis (Sporothrix spp)
    • How it spreads: Environmental exposure or scratches/bites from infected animals.
    • At-risk individuals: Those handling plant matter or in contact with infected animals.
    • Signs in cats: Draining wounds, raised lumps.
    • Symptoms in people: Cutaneous, disseminated, or pulmonary forms; serious and potentially deadly.
  14. Tickborne Diseases
    • How it spreads: Through tick bites.
    • At-risk individuals: Those in tick habitat.
    • Symptoms in people: Fever, chills, body aches; severity varies.
  15. Toxoplasmosis (Toxoplasma gondii)
    • How it spreads: Contact with cat feces, undercooked meat, or contaminated water.
    • At-risk individuals: Those with weakened immune systems, pregnant women.
    • Signs in cats: Shedding of the parasite; often asymptomatic.
    • Symptoms in people: Generally mild; serious complications in immunocompromised individuals.
  16. Tularemia (Francisella tularensis)
    • How it spreads: Tick bites, contact with infected animals, contaminated food or water.
    • At-risk individuals: Those spending time outdoors, hunting, or handling wild game.
    • Signs in cats: Fever, lymph gland swelling, fatigue.
    • Symptoms in people: Fever, ulcers, lymph gland swelling, joint pain.

Healthy People: How to Stay Healthy Around Pet Cats

Before Getting a Cat:

  • Ensure a cat is suitable for your family, considering the risk of diseases.
  • Adopt from reputable sources; ensure veterinary care.


  • Provide balanced, quality cat food.
  • Avoid raw diets to reduce the risk of bacterial contamination.


  • Wash hands thoroughly after handling cats, litter, or feces.
  • Clean litter boxes daily; pregnant women should avoid this task.

Veterinary Care:

  • Regular check-ups, vaccinations, and parasite control.
  • Address signs of illness promptly.

Children and Pets:

  • Teach children proper hygiene.
  • Supervise interactions; avoid rough play.

Zoonotic Risks:

  • Be aware of potential diseases and symptoms.
  • Seek medical attention if symptoms occur.

Conclusion: Cats bring joy and companionship, but responsible ownership is crucial for a harmonious and healthy relationship. Through preventive measures, regular veterinary care, and awareness of zoonotic risks, pet owners can ensure a safe and fulfilling environment for both themselves and their feline friends.

Reference: CDC-Centers for Disease Control and Prevention