Cats are gross. Yeah, yeah — they are cute and adorable, too, but let’s talk about how gross they are. In addition to the fact that they proudly parade around your home with their exposed butthole, intentionally placing it on all your most-used household surfaces, there are actual diseases you can get from your cat. Our pets lucky they’re so snuggly and floofy. Otherwise, we’d see them for the yucky, germ monsters that they essentially are.
This is not to say cats are alone in their grossness; dogs are equally disgusting. You ever see a dog hurriedly try to eat its own puke before you can clean it up? That is textbook nasty. Dogs can also give their owners some pretty gnarly diseases. In fall 2017, a bunch of people got sick from pet store puppies. (PUPPIES! Humans were betrayed by PUPPIES!) According to the Center for Disease Control, people across the country contracted Campylobacter, a common bacteria among dogs. When passed on to humans, however, some of the symptoms include bloody diarrhea, vomiting and fever. Cute!
Of course, none of these diseases are incredibly common, and the likelihood that you’ll get sick from your kitty is pretty slim. If you’re caring for your cat per your vet’s recommendations and staying up-to-date on your pet’s vaccines and general care, you should be fine. However, if you notice any weird symptoms in you or your cat, there are some diseases you should be aware of so you can both get the care you need.
Often abbreviated as Toxo, this is the disease some scientists believed validated the “crazy cat lady” stereotype. Previous research suggested that living with cats could cause psychosis, specifically through Toxo, which also was believed to be linked to brain abscesses and blindness. But don’t panic entirely: you’re probably fine and your cat isn’t making you bonkers.
Scientific American recently reported on a study which confirms your feline friends are fine. “Previous studies reporting links between cat ownership and psychosis simply failed to adequately control for other possible explanations,” Francesca Solmi, lead author of the more recent research, said.
While the disease is rare, doctors still recommend people with lowered immune systems and pregnant women should avoid changing the litter box to reduce the chance of contracting Toxo. If nothing else, it’s an excuse to make someone else deal with your cat’s poop.
2Cat-scratch Disease (Bartonella henselae)
You may have heard of this as “cat-scratch fever.” While it sounds like a quaint expression from the 50s, it is a real disease. According to the CDC, humans can contract cat-scratch disease (CSD) when a cat licks a person’s open wound (again, CUTE!) or scratches or bites a person hard enough to break skin. If infected, three to 14 days after the scratch the wound will become, red, swollen, and develop pus. In rare cases, CSD can lead to more serious complications in humans which can affect the heart, brain, and other internal organs. However, it’s rare that humans contract CSD at all.
Contrary to its extremely gross name, ringworm doesn’t actually involve any worms. According to VCA, ringworm is a fungal infection. It can be transmitted from cats to humans through dormant spores on brushes, in litter boxes, and pet bedding. In cats, some symptoms include loss of fur and scaly skin. In humans, it often appears as a raised, rounded, red “ring” on infected skin. Though it’s pretty easily transmitted from pets to humans (sorry!), it is equally easily treated when detected early. Treatment typically involves a topical ointment and trying not to think about how gross the name “ringworm” is.
First, cookie dough. Now, kittens? Is nothing safe from salmonella?! According to the CDC, people can contract salmonella from pet food and handling treats for pets. While you likely don’t have to be warned not to chow down on your kitty’s food, perhaps you should be conscious of washing your hands after feeding your cat.
5Walking Dandruff (Cheyletiellosis)
In case you weren’t already properly grossed out, there a disease called “walking dandruff” and it’s about as icky as you’re thinking: mites that cause dandruff and flaky skin in cats. Cats who frequently come into contact with other cats are at the highest risk. In turn, those cats’ owners are at a heightened risk for contracting a human version of the parasite. While admittedly pretty gross, Cheyletiellosis doesn’t pose much of a risk beyond itchy, irritated skin in people and the infestations tends to go away after a few weeks.
6Certain Tapeworms (Echinococcosis)
Did you think this list was going to get less gross? Sorry but nope. Echinococcosis is the name for a group of tapeworms cats can contract, often through fleas or mites. If passed along to owners, people can develop cysts on internal organs. However, infection in humans is rare and mostly commonly affects vets.
7Rose Gardener’s Disease (Sporotrichosis)
Though commonly contracted from the environment, hence the cutesy sounding common name, people can also get Sporotrichosis from their pets. The initial most common symptom of the disease is a raised, infected area, often with a draining wound. If gone untreated, Sporotrichosis can become more serious, affecting the function internal organs. However, like the majority of these diseases, that is statistically rare. So, you should be fine to cuddle with your cat as per usual.