Prevention of Transmission of Zoonoses
Cats are not really dangerous creatures to keep in the home in relation to zoonotic diseases. What is important is you know and institute measures in the home to prevent transmission of these diseases. Here are measures that can be done to keep you and your family safe.
First of all, persons with weak and compromised immune systems should have minimal contact with animals that may transmit infections. If pregnant or immunocompromised, have other people in the household clean the litterbox in the meantime. If not possible, then they must be especially careful and take measures to protect themselves.
Frequent handwashing is paramount in the prevention of transmission of majority of diseases including zoonotic diseases from cats. Wash hands after touching the cat, handling cat tick and fleas, cleaning the litterbox or gardening. It is best if you wear gloves to protect the bare skin of the hands when performing these activities. When gardening, consciously look out for animal feces in the soil and avoid contact with them.
Maintain sanitation in the household. Control the presence of rodents. Place litterbox far from areas in the house where food is stored, prepared or eaten. Likewise do not allow cats to get on tabletops Follow proper food-handling procedures to reduce the risk of transmission of infectious microbes from contaminated food. Do not allow cats on tabletops especially places where food is being prepared. Do not let cat lick utensils.
Avoid pet overcrowding in the home and maintain the correct number of litterboxes – that is the number of cats in the household plus one litterboxes. Disinfect litterboxes with household bleach regularly. Wash pet feeders, waterers, toys and beddings frequently. If you have sandboxes where children play, cover them when not in use to prevent your cat or other wildlife from defecating on the sand.
Practice the so-called four Ps – “Pick up Pet Poop Promptly”. Clean the litterbox daily. Doing this significantly reduces the risk of humans getting Toxoplasmosis infection because as mentioned above, it takes several days for the oocysts in an infected cat’s feces to develop into the infective stage for humans. Dispose cat fecal material properly making sure it does not contaminate the water supply or the soil where fruits and vegetables are grown. Handle cat litter gently so particles which may harbor infectious organisms will not float in the air increasing your chances of inhaling them
Maintain a regular schedule for your pet cat’s veterinary visit. Keep all vaccinations, especially that of Rabies, up to date. Even if you have solely indoor cats, have them vaccinated and protected against rabies to prevent problems if in case they escape and get outside.
Antiparasitic preventives must likewise be kept updated to protect your pet from getting external and internal parasites. Have a regular fecal examination and deworming schedule for your cat. Control of ticks and fleas is very important as well. This will remove potential intermediate hosts that may transmit many disease causing organisms to your cat.
A regular veterinary check-up will also help to catch diseases early as they develop. Seek immediate veterinary consultation when you have a sick cat, especially when you see lacerations or puncture wounds which may indicate that they have possibly been bitten by a wild animal and at risk for rabies.
Avoid hugging and kissing a sick pet. Keep in mind that for some diseases, even after your cat has apparently recovered from illness, infectious organisms may still be shed in the pet’s feces and body fluids for some weeks. Ask your veterinarian about the risks.
Ideally keep all pet cats indoors so they will not come into contact with wildlife and other stray animals potentially carrying infectious diseases. It will also make it less likely for your cats to get into fights with other animals outside and get wounded. Prevent wildlife from entering into your yard. Do not allow your cats to eat wildlife and do not feed them raw food.
When leaving your cat at the groomers or pet boarding facilities, make sure to give instructions not to share grooming tools or blankets with other pets. This is to minimize transmission infectious agents especially fungal and parasitic.
Handle cats gently so as not to startle them and get scratched or bitten accidentally. Cat inflicted wounds must immediately be washed thoroughly with disinfectant soap and running water to physically remove as much of infectious organisms or material as possible. Seek immediate medical consult if you suspect that your cat may have acquired Rabies or if there is swelling, pain and discharges from the wound. Avoid letting cats lick pre-existing wounds or abrasions.
Having cats as pets is not dangerous in terms of zoonotic diseases. What is important is for cat owners to educate themselves about this. Many cats have been abandoned and left homeless because of unfounded fear from uninformed or misinformed owners. Many resources are freely available to read and be informed. This is a part of responsible pet ownership.