Housecats Susceptible to Wild Feline Disease
There are really two types of cats out there: the cute and cuddly house cat and the vicious predator wildcats. However, for bacteria and viruses, there is no difference. The domestic cats are equally vulnerable to the same diseases that afflict wild bobcats, cougars, and others. A new study led by Colorado State University found that all cats living in the same area share the same diseases. In fact, domestic cats can act as a bridge to spread feline diseases to human households.
The two major feline diseases examined were Bartonellosis and Toxoplasmosis, both of which can transfer from cats to people. Another disease tracked was feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). As human populations expand into territories once dominated by wild felines, the chance for encounters not only with the cats, but with their pathogens, rise.
Areas examined for the study include urban sections of California and Colorado. In these urban areas, diseases can be clustered due to development and roadways which restrict feline movement.
"The results are relevant to the big picture of domestic cats and their owners in urban areas frequented by wild cats such as bobcats and pumas," said Sue VandeWoude, a veterinarian at Colorado State and co-leader of the project. "The moral of this story is that diseases can be transmitted between housecats and wildlife in areas they share, so it's important for pet owners to keep that in mind."
The study found that even if domestic cats do not come into contact with wild cats, they can still share diseases. FIV in particular is highly contagious. At the moment, cougars are more likely to be infected than bobcats or domestic cats. Fortunately, FIV cannot be transmitted to humans.
Toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by a parasite, was found to be high for cougars and bobcats. It is spread through cat feces. For healthy humans and cats, the parasite has little effect, but for infants and adults with compromised immune systems, it can cause serious complications.
Bartonellosis, also known as cat scratch disease, is a bacterial infection that can be transferred from a cat scratch. The infection is typically mild.
So for all cat owners, it is important to be aware of the local wildlife in your area. There is a good chance that your outdoor cat may be actively involved with it, or at the very least, indirectly affected.
This study was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases.
For more information: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-02/nsf-dca020612.php
Bobcat image via Shutterstock