Yersinia Pestis is the bacteria responsible for the black death which killed millions of people in Europe from 1346. There are several modes of transmission of this highly infective zoonotic bacteria including flea bites, coughing and sneezing (pneumonic plague) and eating an infected animal.
Symptoms vary depending on the type of plague your cat has developed but may include:
- Swollen, tender lymph nodes which become abscessed (bubonic plague)
- Coughing and sneezing (pneumonic plague)
Diagnosis is made by taking cultures from tissue or fluid samples.
Treatment is antibiotic therapy, usually gentamicin or doxycycline. Cats should be isolated during this period due to the risk of transmission to humans.
Y. Pestis can be found in parts of Europe, Africa, North and South America.
Also known as rabbit fever, tularemia is a rare bacterial infection caused by Francisella tularensis which can infect more than 100 species of mammal (including humans). Cats contract the disease in several ways including eating animals (rodents or rabbits) infected with tularemia.
The incubation period is 1-10 days and symptoms vary depending on the route of exposure and the strain but may include:
- Ulcers (on the body)
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Ulcers (in the mouth and tonsils)
- Breathing difficulty
Diagnosis is made by culture of a tissue sample, serology to look for antibodies in the blood or polymerase chain reaction.
Treatment is with antibiotics for 14 days. Gentamicin, streptomycin, and tetracycline are all effective.
Tularemia is found in North America, Northern Europe, Continental Europe and parts of Asia.
This bacterial infection caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis which was a huge scourge on mankind until the advent of antibiotics. Even today, 1.5 million people worldwide die from the disease. Tuberculosis (TB) is rare in cats as they seem to have a natural immunity to it. Cats can become infected during hunting if they are bitten by an infected animal (usually a rodent) or consuming food or milk which is infected with the bacteria. Symptoms vary depending on the route of infection.
For cats who have been bitten, lesions appear on the area that was bitten, which is usually around the face and neck. Localised lymph nodes may also be swollen.
Cats who have acquired infection via consuming food or milk containing the bacteria, gastrointestinal symptoms are more common including:
- Anorexia (loss of appetite)
- Weight loss
Diagnosis can be difficult. Biopsy samples can be invasive on an already sick cat, culture, and cytology of discharges (if present), other tests may include chest x-ray and standard blood and urine tests.
It is generally recommended that cats with TB be euthanised, treatment can be difficult and there is a high risk of the infection spreading to household members and the wider population.
Caused by a common bacteria known as Salmonella which infects a huge number of species including humans, domestic pets, wild animals, farm animals and more. It is most often associated with gastrointestinal disturbances including vomiting and diarrhea. Cats contract the disease from exposure to contaminated food, infected prey or fomites (objects such as food bowls).
Symptoms of salmonellosis include:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
Diagnosis of salmonellosis is based on bacterial culture from rectal swabs or fresh feces or from blood samples if the bacteria has infected the blood.
Treatment of salmonellosis is usually supportive care.
The bacteria has a worldwide distribution.
This is a rare but highly lethal viral infection caused by a herpes virus known as Su-HV1. The primary mode of transmission is from contact with infected pigs, however, it is also possible for cats to become infected after consuming infected rodents.
Symptoms of pseudorabies include:
- Behavioral changes
- Ataxia (wobbly gait)
- Muscle stiffness
- Head pressing
Diagnosis is made via serologic testing to look for antibodies in the blood or from tissue samples at necropsy.
There is no treatment for pseudorabies other than supportive care.
The virus has been eradicated from many parts of the world but is still endemic in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Eastern and Southeastern Europe.
An always fatal viral disease, rabies is transmitted via the bite of an infected animal. The disease is of great importance because it can be transmitted from an infected cat to humans.
Rabies has three phases, prodromal, furious and dumb/paralytic all with different symptoms. Prodromal is usually generalised symptoms of malaise, low-grade fever, loss of appetite. Furious is just that, the cat acts aggressively, muscle tremors and incoordination are also present. The final stage is dumb/paralytic whereas the name would suggest, the cat develops paralysis of the throat and hind legs, respiratory failure, and coma.
The only definitive way to diagnose rabies is post-mortem examination of the brain.
There is no treatment for rabies in cats, euthanasia is necessary and local authorities notified.
Rabies is found in all continents of the world except Australia and Antarctica. The United Kingdom is also rabies-free.
A final note:
While I have listed as many diseases as I can which are caught directly by cats killing and consuming prey, cats can also be susceptible to a number of infections (parasitic, fungal etc) just by roaming outside. Fleas, ticks, histoplasmosis, blastomycosis, aspergillosis, feline ischemic encephalopathy, chiggers to name a few.
Add to that the risk of injury from an animal while hunting. Possums, snakes, large birds can all cause serious injury or death to a cat.