Cats can transmit several diseases to humans, including cat scratch fever, ringworm, campylobacter and toxoplasmosis.
Cat Scratch Fever
Cat scratch fever is a bacterial disease that cats get from flea bites or when flea droppings get into a wound. In most cases, cats show no symptoms of the disease. When symptoms appear, they are usually severe. They include inflammation of the heart and labored breathing.
Cats transfer the disease to humans by biting or scratching, or by licking a person's wound. In humans, the disease causes redness and swelling around the infection, fever, headache and poor appetite.
Humans are at risk of contracting some intestinal parasites from their cats. Human infection is usually the result of poor hygiene and is usually preventable.
Symptoms of worm infestation in a cat include visible worms in the stool, diarrhea, bloody stool, weight loss and a bloated abdomen. Worms are easily treated with a dewormer. Consult a veterinarian to determine what type of worms your cat is infected with and to get the correct medication.
People may contract roundworms from their cat by ingesting their eggs, which may accumulate around the space where an infected cat defecates. Symptoms of roundworms include coughing, shortness of breath, weight loss, nausea, diarrhea and fatigue. Roundworm infection can cause blindness and other serious health issues in people.
Hookworm larvae from a cat's stools can infect people, burrowing into the skin. Symptoms in humans may include itchy rash, weight loss, difficulty breathing and coughing.
Both people and cats contract tapeworm by ingesting an infected flea. People with a tapeworm infection may experience nausea, weight loss, abdominal pain, weakness and vitamin or mineral deficiencies.
Ringworm Fungal Infection
Cats get ringworm through contact with other infected animals, and they can pass the infection to humans. Ringworm is a fungal infection that causes red, flaky, bald patches on the skin. Some cats carry ringworm spores but do not display any symptoms.
Ringworm treatment for both humans and cats is a topical or oral anti-fungal medication. Anti-fungal shampoos may also be used to wash your cat. If you have multiple pets in the household, it is likely they have all been exposed and need treatment.
Campylobacteriosis is a bacterial disease that humans can contract through contact with an infected cat's stools. In cats, the infection causes fever, vomiting, diarrhea and swollen lymph nodes. In humans, the disease causes diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Most patients recover on their own with additional fluid to prevent dehydration from the diarrhea. In more severe cases, antibiotics may be necessary to get rid of the infection.
Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by the Toxoplasma gondii parasite. Cats become infected with the disease when they eat small prey such as rodents or birds. Symptoms of infection in cats includes depression, fever, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea and loss of appetite. Female cats may infect fetuses in the womb, resulting in stillborn kittens. Symptoms in surviving kittens include fever, jaundice and lack of appetite. Infected cats shed large numbers of the parasite for three weeks after infection.
Humans contract the disease through contact with cat stool, which contains parasites. In adults, the infections may cause flulike symptoms. However, pregnant women can pass the disease the disease to their fetuses. Although infected babies do not display symptoms at birth, many may later develop brain damage, mental disability or blindness.