One of the things people fear about cats is disease, and there are misconceptions about just which disease you can catch. These fears aren't solely about feral cats either, they're also about pet cats, even indoor-only cats. Three recent stories have helped to fuel these fears. In the U.K., people have caught tuberculosis from infected cats, raising fears that cats might become a common vector for the disease.
There's also a story making the rounds on the Internet about a baby who contracted meningitis from the family's pet cat after she licked the baby's bottle three years ago. The girl, Sparkle, is fine, and the parents aren't worried about her having contact with the cat now. Her doctors did say that it's very rare for this to happen.
Of course, there's the ever-present worry about toxoplasmosis, which can be a particular threat pregnant women and newborn babies, and people with compromised immune systems. While the chances of catching toxoplasmosis from your cat is small, many doctors warn pregnant women about the risks of coming into contact with litter boxes to help prevent the disease. According to Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine, most cats and people never actually develop symptoms.
So why bring all of this up? It's because these worries can lead to other worries that are unfounded. You won't catch most of the diseases your cat can have. An article on Catster details six illnesses that, no matter how sick your cat is, you will not catch. They are:
- Colds: Viruses that cause kitty colds are different from the viruses that cause our colds. Those viruses can't survive in the human body, so you won't catch your cat's cold even if you get stuff from her runny nose on your hands, and then wipe your own nose (a surefire way to catch a human cold).
- AIDS: Misunderstanding of feline immunovirus (FIV) leads to fears that we can catch HIV from our cats. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS, and FIV is a very similar virus. However, it's another virus that only infects cats, and can't spread to humans.
- Mange: A specific type of mite causes feline mange. This mite can't survive on human skin, and so you can't catch mange from your cat.
- Leukemia: This is another virus that attacks the immune system, and is similar to FIV. It's not related to the cancer known as leukemia that people suffer from. If your cat has feline leukemia, rest assured that you can't develop the leukemia cancer from your cat's virus.
- Hand-foot-and-mouth disease: According to Catster and the Mayo Clinic, this disease is only spread by person-to-person contact. It's common in childcare settings where children rub their noses and put their hands in their mouths. It's a mild disease, but your child can't catch it from your cat, or anybody else's pet.
- Ear mites: These are another parasite that don't survive well on humans. It's easy to think that lying down with your cat that has ear mites means they'll spread to you. They won't, and they won't spread to your child either.
Catster's piece links to many other reputable sites that explain some of this in more detail. The bottom line is that your cat won't give you everything she comes down with, even if she has something that's very similar to a human version. So don't worry; if she's sniffling, or you've discovered a skin parasite, she's not very likely to give it to you.