Immunocompromised People Should Avoid Contact With Cats Other Than Their Own

By Reuters Staff

November 04, 2019

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - New guidelines on feline zoonoses recommend that people with immunodeficiency syndromes should avoid direct contact with cats other than their personal, healthy pets, among other advice.

More than two dozen feline zoonoses can affect humans through enteric, scratch or bite, respiratory, ocular or urogenital routes, and their fleas and ticks can bear other zoonotic agents.

In a report online October 15 in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, the American Association of Feline Practitioners describes these zoonoses and how to approach them in their 2019 Feline Zoonoses Guidelines, an update from reports in 2003 and 2006.

Perhaps the most common enteric zoonosis is Toxoplasma gondii, for which cats are the only definitive host. They can shed millions of oocysts in their feces after primary infection, and once these oocysts have sporulated, they can infect humans.

Humans are more likely to develop toxoplasmosis after ingesting these oocysts from the environment, however, than from direct contact with their own cats.

Because of this and other felines zoonoses, the guidelines urge people with immunodeficiency syndromes to avoid contact with cats other than their own.

Other protections against feline zoonoses include deworming of kittens and continued scheduled deworming for adult cats, as well as heartworm preventatives and antimicrobial stewardship.

Victims of cat bites and deep cat scratches should seek medical advice, especially if there is any form of immunodeficiency present. The guidelines do not, however, support declawing as a means to reduce scratch-associated zoonoses.

The guidelines recommend the use of flea control products for all cats in all seasons whether they live indoors or outdoors. The panelists also suggest the use of acaricides (pesticides that kill ticks and mites) for cats allowed outdoors.

Cats with clinical signs of disease should be assessed by a veterinarian to determine the risk of zoonotic disease transmission and to have the clinical abnormalities tested.

Besides 21 specific pieces of advice, the document also contains general guidelines for cat owners and veterinary staff members for lessening the risk of zoonotic transfer of disease from cats, as well as tables of the common zoonoses and their manifestations in cats and humans.

Dr. Michael R. Lappin from Colorado State University, in Fort Collins, chair of the panel that established these guidelines, did not respond to a request for comments.


J Feline Med Surg 2019.