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Cats and Public Health Issues

There are some minor health risks associated with owning a cat. As long as basic hygiene practices are followed and cats are wormed regularly every 3 months for an adult cat these issues can be dramatically reduced.

If you are allergic to cats, the following steps may help you:

  • Choose an appropriate shorthaired breed
  • Keep cats out of your bedroom
  • Train cats to keep off furniture
  • Groom and brush them outside
  • Bathe the cat regularly
  • Clean and vacuum the house regularly
  • Consult a medical specialist for help developing other strategies to deal with your allergies

Toxoplasmosis (Roundworm)

Toxoplasmosis is caused by a parasite that's transmitted by the animal's faeces. Pregnant women should take extreme care when handling cat faeces in the first 3 months of pregnancy (wear gloves when cleaning the kitty litter, gardening or purchasing a new cat during this period). It takes about 36 to 48 hours for eggs shed in the faeces to become infective, so if the litter tray is cleaned often then the chance of catching the disease is reduced. Feeding the cat with commercially prepared food and thoroughly cooked meats may also help prevent the disease.

Toxocariasis (Roundworm)

Toxocariasis lives in the small intestine of cats and dogs. Once eggs have passed into faeces they become infective in a few days. Eggs can remain in the soil for many years, so the best prevention is to worm your cat every 3 months (adult cats or 2 weeks for kittens).

Adults and children should always wash their hands after handling cats. Children should be discouraged from patting strange cats and parents should cover sandpits when they're not in use.

Ringworm

Ringworm is a fungal disease. One sign is hair loss on the cat, although some carriers show no signs at all. Humans (especially children) may develop irritated patches of skin if infected. If signs of the disease are detected please see your vet and consult your doctor. Normal hygiene practices should be carried out.

Fleas

These parasites thrive on warm, dry conditions. They pierce the cat’s skin and suck its blood. They are, dark brown insects, wingless and capable of jumping great distances relative to their body size. If your cat is infested with fleas, treat it by using powders, shampoos, flea collars and see your local Vet for further advice.

Disinfect the surroundings with parasite spray, and vacuum your home thoroughly. Flea bites can produce irritating reddish patches, which the cat may scratch vigorously. Fleas attack humans only temporarily but can cause severe itching. Flea eggs can survive for as long as 12 months, especially in carpet pile and floorboard crevices.

Remember always treat with appropriate remedies and thoroughly clean places the cat frequents.

Cat Bites

Cat bites can be prone to infection. Bites should be cleaned, antiseptic applied and a doctor consulted in extreme cases. Cat Scratch Fever can be caused by a bite or scratch. Symptoms include a red sore at the site of the bite, swollen lymph nodes and fever. While this disease is not serious you should consult your vet or doctor for further information.

If you are worried about health risks posed by unowned or irresponsibly owned cats, you should always follow the basic hygiene practice of thoroughly washing your hands after handling cats, wearing gloves in the garden and covering children’s sandpits when not in use.