Feral cats stay mostly out of human physical contact and lead a life of fear and constant chasing. Due to their difficult circumstances, these cats often acquire diseases unintentionally. When an unsuspecting human tries to feed them or comes in contact with an infected feral cat, it may lead to human transmission of the disease.
Cats may carry diseases, including cat roundworm, rabies, cutaneous larval migrans, plague, toxoplasmosis, and several others. These are usually transmitted to humans when they touch the cats or come in contact with their feces. However, this is not very common as they normally avoid coming into contact with people.
Learn more about the role of feral cats in disease transmission in this article.
Feral Cats and Disease Transmission
Feral cats mostly don’t get to complete their life cycle and usually die prematurely due to diseases or accidents. Feral cats frequently get infectious peritonitis, feline AIDS, feline leukemia, herpes viral conjunctivitis, intestinal parasites, typhus brought on by fleas, rabies, and toxoplasmosis, among other contagious disorders. If a veterinarian is not consulted and cats are not handled and inspected often, even diseases that are simple to cure can turn fatal.
However, the majority of feline illnesses can only be passed from one cat to another. Cat-to-human transmissions are mostly rare because these creatures avoid human contact. Moreover, there has never been solid evidence linking feral cats to the spread of these illnesses. Wild cats lead healthy lives outside without infecting people. Only direct contact with a cat or its feces may result in the transmission of infectious illnesses from cats to humans.
How Can Feral Cats Spread Diseases?
Contracting diseases from cats is quite rare in humans. Below are some of the diseases that feral cats may carry and their possibility of spreading to humans.
There is practically no chance of contracting diseases like rabies from feral cats. The last reported rabies transmission from cats occurred in 1975. Moreover, it can only happen if the cat bites the humans, and feral cats don’t like human contact. So, it’s quite logical not to assume rabies transmission from cats.
Toxoplasmosis mostly spreads to humans via uncooked food. It is a parasitic disease that transmits through Toxoplasma oocysts in infected animal fecal matter. It is highly unlikely that humans will ingest cat feces, and thus, the fear of transmission is unwarranted.
Cats do not influence the flea’s presence or development, and flea-borne typhus is not that common of an infectious disease. Sometimes, wild cats are mistakenly blamed for their dissemination. Fleas are incredibly adaptable. They feed on rodents, mice, rats, opossums, dogs, and cats. Hence, it’s not the feral cats to blame for this disease; instead, fleas are the main culprits. Flea and tick control products like Seresto Flea and Tick collar can help prevent typhus in feral cats.
Cat Scratch Disease
Cat scratch disease caused by Bartonella henselae is a bacterial disease. People who are attacked or scratched by an infected cat may get cat scratch disease. When it comes to feral cats, getting attacked or scratched needs human provocation. So, the disease is less likely to transmit to humans without the effort of humans themselves.
Toxocara cati, a parasitic illness spread by infected cats, is what causes cat roundworm. This can infect humans and other animals if they unintentionally consume the parasite’s egg. Humans can avoid it by consuming properly cooked food and washing their hands before eating.
What Can Be Done to Prevent Disease Transmission from Feral Cats?
The removal of cats does not stop the spread of illnesses since cats do not transmit the pathogens that fleas and flies do. Since they have less interaction with people, feral cats are even less dangerous to the public’s health than house cats. Catch-and-kill programs don’t provide many advantages since cats are just killed without consideration for their well-being.
One of the solutions to prevent disease transmission from feral cats is vaccination. Cats in controlled colonies cannot contract or spread rabies thanks to the vaccination component of various cat programs. In the case of flea-borne typhus, it is best to take measures to control the spread of fleas rather than focus on feral cats’ role in its transmission.
Although feral cats may carry diseases, these cats cannot be blamed for disease transmission. The practice of catching and killing feral cats is unjustified for disease prevention as their little to no clinical evidence. Nevertheless, preventing diseases in cats can be a great solution for disease transmission in cats.