Can a Cat Get Sick From Eating Bird Droppings?

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Simple grooming can lead to ingestion of bacteria or fungus in bird droppings.
Simple grooming can lead to ingestion of bacteria or fungus in bird droppings. (Image: Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Cats and birds tend to go together. Your favorite indoor feline may sit at the window watching the birds outside or sit below your pet parakeet’s cage. Your outdoor kitty may bring home a prized catch. While most of the time interaction with birds is harmless to your kitty, contact with infected bird droppings can make your favorite feline sick. Whether your kitty ingests the droppings or is just close enough to inhale spores from them, bacteria and fungus may pass into his system.

Bacterial Infections

Bird droppings often contain bacteria, such as E. coli and salmonella. When your cat encounters infected droppings, the bacteria spread into his system. Cats are notorious bathers and even a simple lick of his paw to remove stepped on droppings is enough to ingest bacteria. Symptoms of salmonella and E. coli include severe diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, fever, anorexia, lethargy, increased heart rate, dehydration and depression.

Cryptococcosis

The yeast-like fungus Cryptococcus grows in bird droppings throughout the country. When your cat is in close proximity to droppings, he inhales the fungus through his nose. The fungus then travels into the lungs and central nervous system, causing cryptococcosis. Symptoms include nasal discharge, nose swelling, head lesions, enlarged lymph nodes, eye problems and neurological complications, such as seizures, disorientation and balance troubles. Treatment includes antifungal medications.

Histoplasmosis

Histomplasmosis is a fungal infection caused by the ingestion of Histoplasma capsulatium fungus found in bird droppings. Symptoms include weight loss, coughing, difficulty breathing, lameness, discharge from the eye, diarrhea, fever, pale gums and enlarged lymph nodes. Treatment includes antifungal medications and, in cases of severe weight loss, intravenous fluids and nutrients may be necessary.

Fungal Pneumonia

In addition to the above fungal infections, ingestion of these fungi, as well as Blastomyces and Aspergillus, can lead to fungal pneumonia in cats. The fungi travel deep into the cat’s body, infecting interstitial tissue, lymphatic vessels and lung tissues. Symptoms of fungal pneumonia include anorexia and weight loss, nasal discharge, fever, coughing, breathing difficulty, lameness, discharge from the eye and, in severe cases, sudden blindness. Depending on the causing fungi and the severity of the infection, treatment includes antifungal medications, antibiotics, oxygen administration and intravenous fluids. Treatment may take months and many cats do not respond well to treatment.

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