Well, this is pretty terrifying: a woman lost her eyesight after her cat licked her. I know it's common knowledge that cats aren't the greatest at showing affection toward their owners (my roommate's cat is living proof of this), but geez, this takes things to a whole new level. I always knew there was a reason I have always been a dog person.
Here's what happened: Janese Walters woke up one morning, unable to see out of her left eye. Talk about a bad start to your day. As reported by Toledo News Now, Walters originally thought she had pink eye, so she went to the doctor. Walters wasn't experiencing any symptoms prior to the sudden loss of vision, and her doctors were pretty stumped. That is, until Walters casually mentioned that she had a cat at home. That's when the doctors concluded she had contracted cat scratch disease, an infection caused by Bartonella bacteria.
Cat scratch disease is spread through contact with an infected cat, or contact with the cat's saliva on broken skin or mucosal surfaces. So in this case, doctors guessed that Walters' cat carried the bacteria (which is not harmful to cats, BTW), and licked her eye, causing the blindness. Great, now I can add cat scratch disease to my list of irrational fears, right underneath "choking alone in my apartment" (thanks, 30 Rock).
Even though I might be freaking out and trying to avoid my roommate's cat like the plague, doctors say that it's really not that big of a deal, and you shouldn't do anything drastic, like give away your cat. The NIH says that generally, cat scratch is not serious, and if you get it, the disease can often be cured with antibiotics. And to reduce your chances of infection, all you have to do is wash your hands after playing with your cat. That's it. It's also advised that you not let your cat lick your open wounds (ew, who would do that anyway), and try not to let your cat bite you. All in all, pretty simple stuff, and it's a lot less scary than it sounds.
But while we're on the topic of being careful around your pets, I've researched some more diseases you may not have heard of that you can get from your furry friends.
Toxoplasmosis is caused by a protozoan organism, and is usually contracted after coming into contact with contaminated cat feces. It can cause flu-like symptoms, and can be especially harmful for pregnant women, potentially causing birth defects or even miscarriage. In order to reduce your risk, don't feed your cat raw or undercooked meat, and wash your hands after you change the litter box. And if you're pregnant, get somebody else to swap out the kitty litter for you. Easy-peasy.
2. Lyme Disease
You probably already wear long pants and check for ticks after you roam around in tall grass, but you can get Lyme Disease from your pets, too. North Shore Animal League recommends keeping your pup's flea and tick preventative treatments up to date, and keeping him or her away from tall grass or wooded areas to minimize exposure. You can also get your pet vaccinated for Lyme disease — how great is that?
Gross, but true: ringworm is super-contagious, and can easily be passed from pet to owner. Eeeewwww. To keep you and your four-legged buddy safe, get him or her checked out if you see skin lesions and patches of fur loss with a red mark in the middle. Thankfully, you can treat ringworm with prescription ointment or oral medication (for both you and your pet), and be sure to wash bedding regularly.