Official reprint from UpToDate®
www.uptodate.com ©2017 UpToDate, Inc. and/or its affiliates. All Rights Reserved.

Zoonoses from cats

Camille N Kotton, MD
Section Editor
Daniel J Sexton, MD
Deputy Editor
Jennifer Mitty, MD, MPH


Pets serve valuable social roles in society [1,2]. Pets may lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and improve feelings of loneliness, while increasing opportunities for exercise, outdoor activities, and socialization [1].

In a small, randomized, controlled study of 28 patients with chronic age-related disabilities living in a nursing home, patients were randomly assigned to animal interaction ("pet therapy") compared with usual activities (control group) [3]. The "pet therapy" group patients had improved symptoms of depression and a significant decrease in blood pressure values as compared with the control patients.

Despite these benefits, pets present zoonotic risks, especially for immunocompromised hosts [4-6]. The epidemiology of cat-related zoonoses will be reviewed here. The epidemiology of pet-related zoonoses other than cats is presented separately (see "Zoonoses from dogs" and "Zoonoses from pets other than dogs and cats"). The clinical management of specific zoonotic diseases is discussed under the appropriate topic reviews.


A zoonosis is an animal disease that is transmissible to humans. Humans are usually an accidental host that acquire disease through close contact with an infected animal, who may or may not be symptomatic.


The American Pet Association estimates that there are 77 million cats in the United States (www.apapets.org). The most common route of infection related to cat contact is through bites and scratches, especially in children. (See "Soft tissue infections due to dog and cat bites".)

To continue reading this article, you must log in with your personal, hospital, or group practice subscription. For more information on subscription options, click below on the option that best describes you:

Subscribers log in here

Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Jun 02, 2016.
The content on the UpToDate website is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your own physician or other qualified health care professional regarding any medical questions or conditions. The use of this website is governed by the UpToDate Terms of Use ©2017 UpToDate, Inc.
  1. Anderson WP, Reid CM, Jennings GL. Pet ownership and risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Med J Aust 1992; 157:298.
  2. Parslow RA, Jorm AF. Pet ownership and risk factors for cardiovascular disease: another look. Med J Aust 2003; 179:466.
  3. Stasi MF, Amati D, Costa C, et al. Pet-therapy: a trial for institutionalized frail elderly patients. Arch Gerontol Geriatr Suppl 2004; :407.
  4. Bisseru B. Disease of Man Acquired from His Pets, J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia 1967.
  5. Elliot DL, Tolle SW, Goldberg L, Miller JB. Pet-associated illness. N Engl J Med 1985; 313:985.
  6. Trevejo RT, Barr MC, Robinson RA. Important emerging bacterial zoonotic infections affecting the immunocompromised. Vet Res 2005; 36:493.
  7. Chomel BB. Emerging and Re-Emerging Zoonoses of Dogs and Cats. Animals (Basel) 2014; 4:434.
  8. Gerhold RW, Jessup DA. Zoonotic diseases associated with free-roaming cats. Zoonoses Public Health 2013; 60:189.
  9. Drouot S, Mignon B, Fratti M, et al. Pets as the main source of two zoonotic species of the Trichophyton mentagrophytes complex in Switzerland, Arthroderma vanbreuseghemii and Arthroderma benhamiae. Vet Dermatol 2009; 20:13.
  10. Corti MA, Bloemberg GV, Borelli S, et al. Rare human skin infection with Corynebacterium ulcerans: transmission by a domestic cat. Infection 2012; 40:575.
  11. Goldstein EJ. Bite wounds and infection. Clin Infect Dis 1992; 14:633.
  12. Anderson BE, Neuman MA. Bartonella spp. as emerging human pathogens. Clin Microbiol Rev 1997; 10:203.
  13. Control C. Cat Scratch Disease (Bartonella henselae Infection). http://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/diseases/catscratch.htm (Accessed on November 07, 2005).
  14. Chomel BB, Abbott RC, Kasten RW, et al. Bartonella henselae prevalence in domestic cats in California: risk factors and association between bacteremia and antibody titers. J Clin Microbiol 1995; 33:2445.
  15. Koehler JE, Glaser CA, Tappero JW. Rochalimaea henselae infection. A new zoonosis with the domestic cat as reservoir. JAMA 1994; 271:531.
  16. Weber DJ, Wolfson JS, Swartz MN, Hooper DC. Pasteurella multocida infections. Report of 34 cases and review of the literature. Medicine (Baltimore) 1984; 63:133.
  17. Talan DA, Citron DM, Abrahamian FM, et al. Bacteriologic analysis of infected dog and cat bites. Emergency Medicine Animal Bite Infection Study Group. N Engl J Med 1999; 340:85.
  18. Hirsh D, Farrell K, Reilly C, Dobson S. Pasteurella multocida meningitis and cervical spine osteomyelitis in a neonate. Pediatr Infect Dis J 2004; 23:1063.
  19. Wade T, Booy R, Teare EL, Kroll S. Pasteurella multocida meningitis in infancy - (a lick may be as bad as a bite). Eur J Pediatr 1999; 158:875.
  20. Ashley BD, Noone M, Dwarakanath AD, Malnick H. Fatal Pasteurella dagmatis peritonitis and septicaemia in a patient with cirrhosis: a case report and review of the literature. J Clin Pathol 2004; 57:210.
  21. Christenson ES, Ahmed HM, Durand CM. Pasteurella multocida infection in solid organ transplantation. Lancet Infect Dis 2015; 15:235.
  22. Dyer JL, Yager P, Orciari L, et al. Rabies surveillance in the United States during 2013. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2014; 245:1111.
  23. Bobo RA, Newton EJ. A previously undescribed gram-negative bacillus causing septicemia and meningitis. Am J Clin Pathol 1976; 65:564.
  24. Mahrer S, Raik E. Capnocytophaga canimorsus septicemia associated with cat scratch. Pathology 1992; 24:194.
  25. Valtonen M, Lauhio A, Carlson P, et al. Capnocytophaga canimorsus septicemia: fifth report of a cat-associated infection and five other cases. Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis 1995; 14:520.
  26. McLean CR, Hargrove R, Behn E. The first fatal case of capnocytophaga canimorsus sepsis caused by a cat scratch. J R Nav Med Serv 2004; 90:13.
  27. Chodosh J. Cat's tooth keratitis: human corneal infection with Capnocytophaga canimorsus. Cornea 2001; 20:661.
  28. Woods JP, Crystal MA, Morton RJ, Panciera RJ. Tularemia in two cats. J Am Vet Med Assoc 1998; 212:81.
  29. Capellan J, Fong IW. Tularemia from a cat bite: case report and review of feline-associated tularemia. Clin Infect Dis 1993; 16:472.
  30. Arav-Boger R. Cat-bite tularemia in a seventeen-year-old girl treated with ciprofloxacin. Pediatr Infect Dis J 2000; 19:583.
  31. Baxby D, Bennett M, Getty B. Human cowpox 1969-93: a review based on 54 cases. Br J Dermatol 1994; 131:598.
  32. Godfrey DR, Blundell CJ, Essbauer S, et al. Unusual presentations of cowpox infection in cats. J Small Anim Pract 2004; 45:202.
  33. Willemse A, Egberink HF. Transmission of cowpox virus infection from domestic cat to man. Lancet 1985; 1:1515.
  34. Haenssle HA, Kiessling J, Kempf VA, et al. Orthopoxvirus infection transmitted by a domestic cat. J Am Acad Dermatol 2006; 54:S1.
  35. Hawranek T, Tritscher M, Muss WH, et al. Feline orthopoxvirus infection transmitted from cat to human. J Am Acad Dermatol 2003; 49:513.
  36. Lawn SD, Planche T, Riley P, et al. A black necrotic ulcer. Lancet 2003; 361:1518.
  37. Jackson CR, Davis JA, Frye JG, et al. Diversity of Plasmids and Antimicrobial Resistance Genes in Multidrug-Resistant Escherichia coli Isolated from Healthy Companion Animals. Zoonoses Public Health 2015; 62:479.
  38. Cherry B, Burns A, Johnson GS, et al. Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak associated with veterinary clinic. Emerg Infect Dis 2004; 10:2249.
  39. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recall of dry dog and cat food products associated with human salmonella schwarzengrund Infections --- United States, 2008 http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5744a2.htm (Accessed on May 23, 2016).
  40. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Notes from the field: Human salmonella infantis infections linked to dry dog food — United States and Canada, 2012 http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6123a4.htm.
  41. Saeed AM, Harris NV, DiGiacomo RF. The role of exposure to animals in the etiology of Campylobacter jejuni/coli enteritis. Am J Epidemiol 1993; 137:108.
  42. Deming MS, Tauxe RV, Blake PA, et al. Campylobacter enteritis at a university: transmission from eating chicken and from cats. Am J Epidemiol 1987; 126:526.
  43. Bender JB, Shulman SA, Averbeck GA, et al. Epidemiologic features of Campylobacter infection among cats in the upper midwestern United States. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2005; 226:544.
  44. Nutter FB, Dubey JP, Levine JF, et al. Seroprevalences of antibodies against Bartonella henselae and Toxoplasma gondii and fecal shedding of Cryptosporidium spp, Giardia spp, and Toxocara cati in feral and pet domestic cats. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2004; 225:1394.
  45. Glaser C, Lewis P, Wong S. Pet-, animal-, and vector-borne infections. Pediatr Rev 2000; 21:219.
  46. Eligio-García L, Cortes-Campos A, Jiménez-Cardoso E. Genotype of Giardia intestinalis isolates from children and dogs and its relationship to host origin. Parasitol Res 2005; 97:1.
  47. Traub RJ, Monis PT, Robertson I, et al. Epidemiological and molecular evidence supports the zoonotic transmission of Giardia among humans and dogs living in the same community. Parasitology 2004; 128:253.
  48. Thompson RC. The zoonotic significance and molecular epidemiology of Giardia and giardiasis. Vet Parasitol 2004; 126:15.
  49. Thompson RC, Kapel CM, Hobbs RP, Deplazes P. Comparative development of Echinococcus multilocularis in its definitive hosts. Parasitology 2006; 132:709.
  50. Ladiges WC, DiGiacomo RF, Yamaguchi RA. Prevalence of Toxoplasma gondii antibodies and oocysts in pound-source cats. J Am Vet Med Assoc 1982; 180:1334.
  51. Tenter AM, Heckeroth AR, Weiss LM. Toxoplasma gondii: from animals to humans. Int J Parasitol 2000; 30:1217.
  52. Remington JS. Toxoplasmosis in the adult. Bull N Y Acad Med 1974; 50:211.
  53. Falusi O, French AL, Seaberg EC, et al. Prevalence and predictors of Toxoplasma seropositivity in women with and at risk for human immunodeficiency virus infection. Clin Infect Dis 2002; 35:1414.
  54. Lopez A, Dietz VJ, Wilson M, et al. Preventing congenital toxoplasmosis. MMWR Recomm Rep 2000; 49:59.
  55. Wallace MR, Rossetti RJ, Olson PE. Cats and toxoplasmosis risk in HIV-infected adults. JAMA 1993; 269:76.
  56. Richards FO Jr, Kovacs JA, Luft BJ. Preventing toxoplasmic encephalitis in persons infected with human immunodeficiency virus. Clin Infect Dis 1995; 21 Suppl 1:S49.
  57. Lo Re V 3rd, Brennan PJ, Wadlin J, et al. Infected branchial cleft cyst due to Bordetella bronchiseptica in an immunocompetent patient. J Clin Microbiol 2001; 39:4210.
  58. Stefanelli P, Mastrantonio P, Hausman SZ, et al. Molecular characterization of two Bordetella bronchiseptica strains isolated from children with coughs. J Clin Microbiol 1997; 35:1550.
  59. Woolfrey BF, Moody JA. Human infections associated with Bordetella bronchiseptica. Clin Microbiol Rev 1991; 4:243.
  60. Dworkin MS, Sullivan PS, Buskin SE, et al. Bordetella bronchiseptica infection in human immunodeficiency virus-infected patients. Clin Infect Dis 1999; 28:1095.
  61. Marrie TJ. Coxiella burnetii pneumonia. Eur Respir J 2003; 21:713.
  62. Pinsky RL, Fishbein DB, Greene CR, Gensheimer KF. An outbreak of cat-associated Q fever in the United States. J Infect Dis 1991; 164:202.
  63. Cima G. Cat transmits TB to humans in UK. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2014; 244:1116.
  64. Lappin MR, Breitschwerdt EB, Jensen WA, et al. Molecular and serologic evidence of Anaplasma phagocytophilum infection in cats in North America. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2004; 225:893.
  65. Lowell JL, Wagner DM, Atshabar B, et al. Identifying sources of human exposure to plague. J Clin Microbiol 2005; 43:650.
  66. Doll JM, Zeitz PS, Ettestad P, et al. Cat-transmitted fatal pneumonic plague in a person who traveled from Colorado to Arizona. Am J Trop Med Hyg 1994; 51:109.
  67. Schuller S, Francey T, Hartmann K, et al. European consensus statement on leptospirosis in dogs and cats. J Small Anim Pract 2015; 56:159.
  68. Childs JE, Schwartz BS, Ksiazek TG, et al. Risk factors associated with antibodies to leptospires in inner-city residents of Baltimore: a protective role for cats. Am J Public Health 1992; 82:597.
  69. de Lima Barros MB, de Oliveira Schubach A, Galhardo MC, et al. Sporotrichosis with widespread cutaneous lesions: report of 24 cases related to transmission by domestic cats in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Int J Dermatol 2003; 42:677.
  70. Fleury RN, Taborda PR, Gupta AK, et al. Zoonotic sporotrichosis. Transmission to humans by infected domestic cat scratching: report of four cases in São Paulo, Brazil. Int J Dermatol 2001; 40:318.
  71. Schubach A, de Lima Barros MB, Schubach TM, et al. Primary conjunctival sporotrichosis: two cases from a zoonotic epidemic in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Cornea 2005; 24:491.
  72. Naqvi SH, Becherer P, Gudipati S. Ketoconazole treatment of a family with zoonotic sporotrichosis. Scand J Infect Dis 1993; 25:543.
  73. Reed KD, Moore FM, Geiger GE, Stemper ME. Zoonotic transmission of sporotrichosis: case report and review. Clin Infect Dis 1993; 16:384.
  74. Weitzman I, Chin NX, Kunjukunju N, Della-Latta P. A survey of dermatophytes isolated from human patients in the United States from 1993 to 1995. J Am Acad Dermatol 1998; 39:255.
  75. Weese JS. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in animals. ILAR J 2010; 51:233.
  76. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health pets healthy people. http://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/pets/cats.html (Accessed on May 22, 2016).
  77. Glaser CA, Angulo FJ, Rooney JA. Animal-associated opportunistic infections among persons infected with the human immunodeficiency virus. Clin Infect Dis 1994; 18:14.
  78. Hanselman BA, Kruth SA, Rousseau J, Weese JS. Coagulase positive staphylococcal colonization of humans and their household pets. Can Vet J 2009; 50:954.
  79. Kotton CN. Zoonoses in solid-organ and hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients. Clin Infect Dis 2007; 44:857.
  80. Kaplan JE, Masur H, Holmes KK, et al. Guidelines for preventing opportunistic infections among HIV-infected persons--2002. Recommendations of the U.S. Public Health Service and the Infectious Diseases Society of America. MMWR Recomm Rep 2002; 51:1.
  81. Robinson RA, Pugh RN. Dogs, zoonoses and immunosuppression. J R Soc Promot Health 2002; 122:95.