Do Stray Cats Carry Diseases? You Need To Read This


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Stray cats can appear from nowhere. One day they aren’t there, and the next day they act like old, established neighbors. You may decide to start feeding stray cats, and they may make themselves comfortable with your property, even if they don’t permit you to get close. The problem with stray cats moving into the area is that they can carry diseases.

Stray cats are susceptible to diseases, some of which are zoonotic and can be transmitted to humans. The two most dangerous diseases that stray cats can carry are Feline Immunodeficiency Virus and Feline Leukemia. These two diseases cannot infect humans but are potentially fatal to your pet cat.

Stray cats do not have access to vaccinations, parasite preventatives or treatments, and routine medical treatments, so they are more susceptible to diseases. When they move into your area, they can transmit these diseases to your pet cats and even to you and your family.

What are the most common diseases carried by stray cats, and what should you do if a stray cat moves into your area?

Stray Cat

Zoonotic Diseases from Cats

A zoonotic disease can be passed from animals to humans. The diseases below are the more common cat-spread zoonotic diseases.

These diseases are more likely to affect pet cats than humans, but certain people are more at risk. These include children under five years old, adults over the age of 65, and immunocompromised persons (chemotherapy patients, immunosuppressant users, people with HIV/AIDS, lupus, etc.).

Many of these diseases are transmitted through the feces of infected cats. Typically, this refers to the ingestion of fecal matter. If you are aware that you have touched feces or are cleaning out a litter tray, you will thoroughly wash your hands and not even consider bringing them near your mouth until you are sure they are clean.

However, fecal particles can be microscopic and sit on the flowers you carry into your house, the vegetables you grow in your garden, your cats’ fur, etc. To minimize the risk of contracting a zoonotic disease, you need to be vigilant about washing your hands after gardening, grooming, petting your cat, etc.

Campylobacteriosis

Campylobacteriosis is a bacterial disease that is transmitted through contact with the feces of an infected cat. This could be a risk to you and your pet cats if the stray cat started to use your garden as a toilet.

Your cat may encounter the feces while digging holes for their own business, or they may try to investigate who has been on their property. Cats infected with Campylobacteriosis can be asymptomatic, or they can have bloody or non-bloody diarrhea.

You or your family can encounter the infected feces while playing outside, gardening, cleaning up storage sheds, etc. Additionally, if your cat becomes infected, your risk increases as you are in daily contact with their litter tray.

In humans, Campylobacteriosis symptoms include bloody or non-bloody diarrhea, fever, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps. These symptoms can last for up to seven days.

Cat Scratch Disease (CSD)

CSD is another bacterial disease. Your pet cat can become infected with CSD if they catch fleas from an infected stray cat (fleas carry and transmit this bacteria), fighting with an infected cat (scratches and bites). Cats typically present with mild sickness and short-lived fevers.

Humans are most likely to be infected through scratches inflicted by an infected cat, hence the name. However, the disease is also transmitted through saliva, so if your cat or the stray cat bites or licks you, you may become infected.

Humans present with a red bump or blister at the infection site (bite or scratch), swollen lymph nodes, mild fever, joint and muscle pain, and fatigue.

Salmonellosis (Salmonella Poisoning)

You may not immediately associate Salmonella poisoning with diseases in cats, but they can contract this bacterial infection by eating wild birds and raw meat. As stray cats are hunter/scavengers, discarded raw meats and wild birds form part of their diet, and they can easily contract Salmonellosis.

Salmonellosis is transmitted through contact with the feces of contaminated cats. As with Campylobacteriosis, if a stray cat uses your garden as a toilet, you and your pet cats are at risk of catching the disease. Adult cats show no signs of being infected, but kittens can get diarrhea. Humans display the symptoms of food poisoning when infected.

Toxoplasmosis

Out of all the cat-related diseases already mentioned, this is probably the one you are most familiar with, and the most well-known fact about this parasitic disease is its risk to babies in the womb. Cats contract Toxoplasmosis by eating infected birds and rodents (often included in a stray cat’s diet).

Although it does not cause illness in cats, it can be transmitted to humans through contact with infected cat feces.

Other Parasitic Infections

Stray cats introduce fleas, scabies, and intestinal worms into your household.

Flea bites: Bites from fleas cause local inflammation and itching in both humans and cats.

Cat Tape Worm: Cats can get tapeworm by eating infected fleas while grooming. Humans can also accidentally ingest the fleas. These parasitic worms don’t cause illness in either cats and humans, although severe infestations can cause weight-loss. However, it is not nice to think that you or your cat have worms!

Scabies: This is an infection caused by mites that burrow into your or your cat’s skin, causing itchy lesions.

Roundworms and Hookworms: These parasites are transmitted through the feces of infected cats. Hookworms can cause weight-loss and anemia in kittens but typically don’t cause illness in adult cats or humans.

Roundworms also affect kittens more than adult cats, causing diarrhea and dehydration. In humans, these roundworms can migrate to the eyes or internal organs and can be very dangerous.

Stray Cat

Cat-Only Diseases

The two most dangerous cat-only diseases that can be transmitted to your pet cats from strays are FIV and Feline Leukemia. For more information about these diseases, you can visit the ASPCA’s website.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

This is the cat equivalent of HIV/AIDS andis transmitted through non-superficial bite wounds from an infected cat. As cats are territorial, fights that result in bite wounds are not uncommon.

Cats with FIV can live relatively long and happy lives. Still, it does compromise their immune systems, making them more susceptible to infections, which can then spread rapidly without early treatment.

Feline Leukemia

Feline Leukemia also compromises the immune system of cats. What makes it more dangerous than FIV is that it is more easily transmitted. Feline Leukemia is transmitted in blood and saliva and, although less commonly, via urine and feces.

So, grooming, fighting, and sharing bowls with infected stray cats can lead to Feline Leukemia’s development in your pet.

Is It Risky For A Stray Cat To Be Around My House?

The answer to this question is both yes, and no. Yes, there is the risk of them transmitting diseases to you and your cats when they come into your property. But, unless you keep an indoor cat, the chances are that they will expose themselves to these diseases by leaving your property and interacting with other cats and animals. Your pet cat is also just as likely to catch and eat disease-carrying birds and rodents.

Yes, your cat may be more likely to fight with a stray cat that is on its property, exposing itself to diseases transmitted through scratching and biting. But, if you let your pet cat outside, your cat is also likely to leave your property and invade the stray cat’s territory, causing fights. 

To read more about cats fighting and if they will fight to the death: Click Here.

You should consider helping the stray cat. This does not mean trying to coax it into your house, though! You can feed the stray cats to eliminate their need to eat potentially infected creatures.

But don’t just feed stray cats. Pets WebMD recommends trying to catch them and take them to a veterinarian or an animal shelter clinic to be sterilized, screened for medical conditions, vaccinated, and treated. There are also animal rescue organizations who you can contact to help you catch them.

If the stray cat seems socialized to humans (i.e., they were once pets but got lost or were abandoned), they may be re-tamed and re-homed. If they are feral, then they can be released back into the neighborhood.

Some people do not agree with releasing cats again. Still, Pets WebMD explains the benefits of the trap-neuter-release program and invites cat-lovers to become colony caregivers in their area if there is more than one feral or stray cat living there.

Conclusion

Video: Cats Of The Urban Wild

Stray cats can carry many diseases. Some of these diseases can even affect humans. You should be careful about how you interact with a stray cat to minimize the chances of being scratched or bitten. If they decide to use your garden as a toilet, you may still be exposed to many possible diseases. Your pet cats can also contract the diseases and spread them to you.

Most of these zoonotic diseases can be contracted by your cat while exploring outside (if you let them out), so the risk is not too much higher with a stray cat living in your area. Additionally, these diseases are not too dangerous and can be treated in both humans and cats.

The biggest risks are FIV and Feline Leukemia. These cannot affect humans, but they are immunocompromising diseases that can be fatal in cats. If your cat wanders off your property, they can pick these diseases up, so the risk is not too much greater by the presence of a stray cat in your immediate area.

If you are worried about the diseases that a stray cat can carry, you should try to help them. Contact your local animal welfare clinic and ask them for assistance or the number of the feral/stray cat colony caregiver in your area. If there is no caregiver, you can consider becoming one yourself.

If you liked this article, please check out a few of our other articles:

  • Will Stray Cats Drink Antifreeze? Scary Info Here: Click Here
  • Do Stray Cats Bury Their Poop? The Best Smelly Answers: Click Here.
  • 13 Beautiful Cat Breeds Similar To Siamese Cats: Click Here.

Christopher Carlson

I have an Domestic Shorthair Tabby named Charlotte. She is full of energy when she isn't sleeping most of the day. I share what I learn about cats on this site.

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