What is an infection?
An infection occurs when a disease-causing organism (known as a pathogen) enters the body obtaining nourishment and reproducing and causing harm.
There are a great number of infectious agents which can affect cats. They fall into several categories depending on the pathogen (disease-causing microorganism).
- Bacterial (salmonella, E. coli, campylobacteriosis, bordetella, hemobartonella)
- Viral (FIP, FIV, FeLV, feline panleukopenia, feline herpes, calicivirus)
- Parasitic (fleas, worms, toxoplasmosis, ear mites)
- Fungal (ringworm, coccidiosis)
- Protozoan (Giardia, toxoplasmosis, cryptosporidium)
This list by no means includes all infections, just a selection of the most common ones seen in cats.
An infection can affect any part of the body and in some cases, several. For example, feline herpes can cause eye discharge, nasal discharge, sneezing etc.
What are the signs of infection in cats?
This varies depending on the organism involved. But usually, the symptoms your cat is displaying can give your veterinarian a clue as to possible causes. Not all of the symptoms below mean your cat has an infection, for example, a cat vomiting may be suffering from poisoning or diabetes. Many symptoms have multiple causes.
- Fever (bacterial, viral or fungal)
- Diarrhea (viral, bacterial, protozoal)
- Nasal discharge (viral, bacterial, fungal)
- Vomiting (viral, bacterial, protozoal)
- Eye discharge (eye infection, cat flu)
- Weeping skin (bacterial infection)
- Abscess (bacterial infection)
- Skin sores (bacterial, fungal)
- Difficulty urinating (bacterial)
- Weight loss (viral, bacterial, protozoal, parasitic)
What are the most common types of infections in cats?
Abscess: Another common type of infection in cats is a bite wound abscess, usually caused by cats fighting. Due to the nature of a cat’s teeth, which are sharp, bacteria are injected under the skin, causing bacteria to form an abscess. Un-desexed cats are especially prone to developing bite wound abscesses due to the fact they are more likely to roam and get involved in fights with other cats.
Eye infections are common and can be viral, bacterial or fungal.
Urinary tract infections are a leading cause of litter tray problems (going to the toilet in inappropriate places).
Parasitic worms: There are several types of worm to infect cats. The most common is the roundworm. Cats may not display any symptoms of a worm infection until heavily infected. It is important to maintain a regular worming schedule for all cats, even indoor ones.
What is the treatment for infections in cats?
This, of course, depends on the type of infection and the location.
Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections, they can not treat viral infections, however. In some cases, your veterinarian will perform a bacterial culture to determine the exact type of bacteria involved, and then prescribe the appropriate antibiotic to treat that particular strain. Different antibiotics work for different bacteria.
Supportive care such as fluid therapy and nutritional support for viral infections.
Anti-fungal medication and supportive care for fungal infections.
Can cats infect humans?
Yes, in some cases cats can transmit the disease to humans. This is known as zoonoses. Cat bites have an extremely high rate of infections. Other common causes of infection between cats and human include ringworm, toxoplasmosis (which is extremely dangerous if a woman becomes infected during pregnancy) and cat scratch disease.