Cat owners beware: Wild cats transmit disease

About Dr. Jennifer Coates
Dr. Coates is a veterinarian based in the other “Sunshine State” – that's Colorado to the rest of you – where she lives and plays with a varied range of animals.
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wildcats Cat owners beware: Wild cats transmit disease

Eurpean wildcat, in Bayerischer National Park in Germany (photo, wikipedia)

Most cat owners understand the reasons why it’s best not to let their pets roam outdoors without supervision or protection. Indoor cats live on average twice as long as do cats that roam freely primarily because of their reduced risk of infectious disease and traumatic injury.

Cats with access to the outdoors are also responsible for killing millions of birds and other small animals every year. Finally, feral cat colonies originating from lost or released pets and their offspring present huge animal welfare challenges.

Scientists in Colorado and California have now discovered several more excellent reasons to keep housecats indoors – disease transmission between domestic and wild animals, and a potential risk to human health.

The results of a large, multiyear study were recently published in the online journal PLoS ONE. Researchers took blood samples from bobcats and puma that were captured and released and from free-ranging domestic cats upon admission to shelters or through trap, neuter, release programs from the Colorado Western Slope, Colorado Front Range, Ventura County California, Orange County California, and Riverside/San Diego Counties, California.

The scientists evaluated 791 blood samples for the presence of antibodies against Bartonella spp., Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) , and Toxoplasma gondii, and found the following rates of exposure:zoonotic disease in cats, wildlife disease transmission

Even if you are not particularly interested in feline health, you should take note that both Bartonella spp. and Toxoplasma gondii are zoonotic diseases, meaning that they can be transmitted from animals to humans.

This study shows that feline populations could be significant reservoirs for some highly prevalent human diseases — most notably feral cats as a source of Bartonella spp., and bobcats and especially puma for toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasma oocysts can persist in the soil or water for months and are of particular concern to pregnant women and people who are immunosuppressed by disease or chemotherapy. Also, Toxoplasma contaminates a significant percentage of the meat supplied for human consumption and is implicated as a factor in declining sea otter populations on the western coast of the U.S.

As the authors put it:

The fundamentals of zoonotic disease ecology are often poorly understood despite the fact that they can have serious public health consequences and are emerging with alarming frequency. In addition, threatened species, as well as overall biodiversity, can be negatively impacted by disease. This study incorporated data collected over a ten year period on 791 pumas, bobcats, and domestic cats, sampled across five study areas that varied in both ecosystem characteristics and degree of urbanization. Data provide new and unanticipated findings about the distribution of three pathogens capable of infecting and being transmitted among three felid species whose ranges overlap, particularly along urban edges.

Dr. Jennifer Coates writing for PetMD

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 Cat owners beware: Wild cats transmit disease
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Posted by on March 3, 2012. Filed under Advice,CRITTER TALK. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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5 Responses to Cat owners beware: Wild cats transmit disease

  1. Woodsman Reply

    March 5, 2012 at 4:18 am

    Be cautious about suggesting that any cats rounded-up from outdoors be used for adoption or you could be held criminally responsible for destroying the lives and finances of families and their pets. There’s no way to know a wild-harvested cats’ vaccination history, if any, nor their exposure to all the deadly diseases cats carry. If a cat has contracted rabies then a vaccination against it later will do no good. It’s already too late. There’s also no reliable known test for rabies while keeping the animal alive. They really need to be destroyed after they are trapped. It’s the only sane and sensible solution. This is precisely why all wild-harvested animals in the world, of any type intended for the pet-industry, must undergo an extended quarantine period of up to 6 months before transfer or sale of those animals to prevent just these things. Cats are no different than any other animal when harvested from the wild. You’re just risking this following story happening in every shelter across the land.

    Link removed.

    Adopting any cat that’s been taken from outdoors is just playing Russian Roulette.

    Stray-cats, the very source of all feral-cats, need to be euthanized too or you’ll never be rid of the feral-cat problem.

    I found some surprising things about all the diseases these invasive-species vermin are now spreading throughout the USA.

    These are just the diseases they’ve been spreading to humans, not counting the ones they spread to all wildlife. THERE ARE NO VACCINES against many of these, and are in-fact listed as bio-terrorism agents. They include: Campylobacter Infection, Cat Scratch Disease, Coxiella burnetti Infection (Q fever), Cryptosporidium Infection, Dipylidium Infection (tapeworm), Hookworm Infection, Leptospira Infection, Giardia, Plague, Rabies, Ringworm, Salmonella Infection, Toxocara Infection, Toxoplasma. [Centers for Disease Control, July 2010] Sarcosporidiosis, Flea-borne Typhus, and Tularemia can now also be added to that list.

  2. Woodsman Reply

    March 5, 2012 at 4:50 am

    The most insidious one of all, cats’ Toxoplasma gondii parasite they spread through their feces into all other animals. This is how it gets into meats and humans get it from meats, cats roaming around stockyards and farms. This is why cats are ROUTINELY destroyed around gestating livestock or important wildlife by shooting or drowning them. So those animals won’t suffer from the same things that can happen to the unborn fetus of any pregnant woman. (Miscarriages, still-births, hydrocephaly, and microcephaly.) It can kill you at any time during your life once you’ve been infected. It becomes a permanent lifetime parasite in your mind, killing you when your immune system becomes compromised. It can last over a year in any soils or waters and not even washing your hands or garden vegetables in bleach will destroy the oocysts. Contrary to popular cat-lovers’ self-deceptive myths, a cat can also become reinfected many times during its life and spread new oocysts each time. It’s now linked to the cause of autism, schizophrenia, and brain cancers. This parasite is now also killing off rare and endangered marine-mammals along all coastal areas from cats’ T. gondii oocysts in run-off from the land, the oocysts even surviving in saltwater.

    Its strange life cycle is meant to infect rodents. Any rodents infected with it lose their fear of cats and are actually attracted to cat urine.

    Links not permitted.

    Cats attract rodents to your home with their whole slew of diseases. If you want rodents in your home keep cats outside of it to attract diseased rodents to your area.

    The time has come to destroy them all whenever spotted away from supervised confinement. There’s no other solution. We have nobody but cat-lovers to thank for this disaster.

  3. Woodsman Reply

    March 5, 2012 at 4:52 am

    There goes that oft-spewed lie and myth about lack of cats in Europe causing the plague. No rats nor fleas even required if you have cats around. Cats spread the plague all by themselves.

    Now add in cats infecting rodents with T. gondii and cats actually attract rats & their fleas right to them and the people living near those cats.

    If cats had been around back then the plague would have been exponentially worse, not better. As the plague will probably be this time around, with cats exponentially over-breeding in any ecosystem where they are found.

  4. Woodsman Reply

    March 5, 2012 at 5:01 am

    How about some more reports of cats spreading bio-terrorism agents.

    People who advocate for the spread of cats out in nature could actually be convicted of Bio-Terrorism, and is probably what will happen if they can’t be stopped from their TNR nonsense. Not only do the cats themselves harbor and spread microbial bio-terrorism agents, but the cats themselves in destroying all native wildlife also adequately fall under the definition of a bio-terrorism agent.

    Want some more?

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