Transmission of Common Cat Diseases and Parasites


Transmission of common cat diseases and parasites

Understanding how diseases are transmitted is important as it can help to
reduce possible exposure to cats as well as humans in the case of zoonotic
diseases (infections which cats can transmit to people).

  • Direct contact – Such as licking, touching, biting, sexual intercourse.
  • Indirect contact – Water, soil, grass, contaminated food (including prey).
  • Cutaneous – Transmission via intact skin or a wound.
  • Caregivers – Contact between an infected cat which is then.
    transmitted to the non-infected cat via a caregiver (pet owner, veterinarian etc).
  • Vertical – Pregnancy (transplacental) and birth.
  • Aerosol/inhalation – Cat to cat transmission such as coughing, sneezing and respiration, viruses can travel for a distance of 6 feet.
  • Vector-borne – Fleas, ticks and mosquitoes.
  • Oral (indirect contact via the mouth) – Eating, drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Fecal-oral – Pathogens from fecal particles pass into the mouth of another cat via food, water, unwashed hands, contaminated food and insects.
  • Fomites – Non-living objects such as food bowls, cat toys, grooming equipment, which are contaminated with the pathogen.
  • Transmammary (lactogenic)– Transmission of a pathogen to kittens via the mother’s breast milk.
  • Iactrogenic  – Medically induced, such as via blood transfusion, organ transplant etc.
  • Transport and intermediate hosts – Animals and insects who has acquired a parasite, which is then passed onto the cat either during feeding (such as vector-borne parasites), or as prey (rodents for example, who are eaten).
  • Carrier – An animal who is infected with a pathogen and is capable of infecting others, but has no obvious signs.
  • Airborne – This differs from aerosol or inhalation as infection is acquired through contamination in the air, but not necessarily directly inhaled (ringworm for example, in which spores in the air can come into contact with the fur and skin and cause infection).



Route(s) of transmission

Anaplasmosis No Vector-borne, blood transfusion
Anthrax Yes Aerosol, fomites, direct contact,
blood transfusion (possible)
Aspergillosis (Aspergillus spp.) No Inhalation
Babesiosis (Babesia spp.) No Vector-borne, blood transfusion,
Blastomycosis (Blastomyces dermatitidis) No Inhalation, cutaneous (rare)
Bordetella (Bordetella bronchiseptica) Yes, if immunocompromised Aerosol, direct contact
Calicivirus No Aerosol, direct contact, fomites, caregivers
Campylobacteriosis (Campylobacter jejuni) Yes Fecal-oral
Cat flea typhus (Ricksettia) No Vector-borne, blood transfusion
Cat scratch disease (Bartonella
Yes Vector-borne, blood transfusion
Cheyletiellosis (Cheyletiella
Yes Direct and indirect contact (environment)
Chlamydiosis (Chlamydophila felis) No Direct contact, fomites (possible,
but rare)
Clostridium (Clostridium difficile) Possible Fecal-oral
Coccidiosis (I. rivolta, I. felis) No Fecal-oral, direct contact (hunting)
and indirect contact (environment)
Coronavirus No Fecal-oral, direct contact, fomites
Cowpox Yes Direct contact
Cryptococcosis (Cryptococcus
No Inhalation.
Cryptosporidiosis (Cryptosporidium spp.) Possible Fecal-oral
Cytauxzoonosis (Cytauxzoon felis) No Vector-borne, blood transfusion
Ear mites No Direct contact, fomites
Feline herpes (feline herpesvirus type 1) No Vertical, aerosol, direct contact, caregivers, fomites
Feline immunodeficiency virus No Direct contact, vertical, blood
Feline infectious anemia (M. haemofelis, M. haemominutum) No Vector-borne, vertical, transmammary, blood transfusion
Feline leukemia virus No Direct contact, vertical,
transmammary, blood transfusion
Giardia Possible Fecal-oral
Heartworm No Vector-borne, blood transfusion
Histoplasmosis (Histoplasma
No Inhalation
Hookworm Yes Indirect exposure (penetration of
larvae in contaminated environment through skin), ingestion, inhalation
(via contaminated environment), vertical, transmammary (possible)
Leishmaniasis (Leishmania
Yes Vector-borne, blood transfusion (possible)
Leptospirosis (Leptospira spp.)
Yes Urine-oral exposure, vertical,
cutaneous transmission via cuts and abrasions from contaminated sources
(puddles, soil etc), possible direct contact (during intercourse)
Lungworm (Aelurostrongylus abstrusus , Capillaria aerophila) No Transport hosts, indirect contact
(infected water)
Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi) No Vector-borne, blood transfusion
(possible, but unlikely)
Notoedric mange (Notoedres cati) Yes Direct contact, fomites
Panleukopenia (feline parvovirus) No Fecal-oral, direct contact, fomites,
Plague (Yersinia
Yes Vector-borne (fleas), aerosol, direct contact, indirect contact
Pseudorabies alphaherpesvirus suid herpesvirus-1  or
Yes Direct contact with infected swine,
indirect contact (ingestion of contaminated pork or infected prey), fomites, possible aerosol
Rabies (Rhabdoviridae) Yes Direct contact (biting)
Ringworm (Microsporum canis, Microsporum gypseum, Trichophyton mentagrophytes) Yes Direct contact, fomites, caregiver,
airborne spores
Roundworm (Toxocara cati and Toxascaris leonina) Yes Transmammary, indirect contact (food, feces, water, soil infected with worm eggs), transport hosts such as rodents (who carry the encysted form)
Salmonellosis (Salmonella spp.) Possible Fecal-oral
Tapeworm (Dipylidium caninum, Taenia taeniaeformis)) No Vector-borne
Tetanus (Clostridium tetani) Yes Fomites (such as nails from puncture wounds)
Toxoplasmosis (Toxoplasma gondii) Yes Fecal-oral, ingestion of animal tissue which contains T. Gondii cysts
Tritrichomonas foetus Possible Fecal-oral
Tuberculosis (Mycobacterium
Yes Direct transmission (bites), indirect transmission (infected cows milk or meat)
Tularemia(Francisella tularensis) Yes Oral, aerosol, vector borne, blood

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