Diseases transmitted by stray cats

Diseases transmitted by stray cats: description, cause, symptoms and treatment of the main diseases most common by street cats.

Going to the rescue of a stray kitten is the first thing that comes to mind if we meet a little cold puppy. But how should we behave? What do we need to worry about? What are the diseases transmitted by stray cats?

Diseases transmitted by stray cats

Often it happens to meet stray kittens on the street and it is natural to think of being able to take them home and make them domestic.

But this is not always a good idea, especially for cats belonging to the feline colonies who are not used to constant contact with humans and it is not automatic that they willingly accept the hospitality of a home and lots of love.

We also do not know the origin and above all the state of health. Below we will describe the main diseases transmitted by stray cats.

Stray cat scratch wounds

The scratch disease or Bartonella is a pathology caused by a group of bacteria called Bartonella, it is part of the zoonotic diseases, that is, it is transmitted from animals to humans.

This disease is also called cat scratch disease because it is transmitted by scratching causing wounds in the skin of other cats or human skin. There are three types of bacteria that cause this condition:

  • Bartonella helensae;
  • Bartonella Clarridgeiae;
  • Bartonella Koehlera.

The main cause of this bartonella infection is fleas, although infections can also occur through ticks.

The cat becomes infected when it comes into contact with the feces of other animals, with the ingestion of these parasites or through the contact of fluids such as saliva or open wounds, as well as uncontrolled blood transfusions.

The animal may show no symptoms, which is more common in cats parasitized by Bartonella helensae, while in Bartonella vinsonii subsp. berkhoffii, as well as other subspecies other than helensae, the following symptoms emerge:

  • epistaxis (nosebleeds);
  • transient anemia;
  • kidney problems;
  • neurological conditions;
  • fever;
  • uveitis;
  • lethargy.

When these symptoms are visible, it is necessary to contact the veterinarian, who will examine a blood sample of the animal, which is called the gold standard test, thanks to which it is possible to highlight the presence of bartonella bacteria in the blood stream of the animal cat.

If the tests are positive, you will have to cope with antibiotic treatment for about 28 days. Nonetheless, good prevention is always the best option. Apply anti-parasitic measures against flea infection, as well as control our pet’s contact with stray cats.


Toxoplasmosis in cats is transmitted through the single-celled parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. Birds and mammals are the intermediate hosts of Toxoplasma gondii, while the cat is the final host.

This disease belongs to the group of animal infectious diseases called zoonoses and can affect humans and animals. In fact, those who have a cat can also be infected with toxoplasma gondii by coming into contact with the feces of their animal, for example while cleaning the cat’s litter box.

Generally this disease is asymptomatic and the cat’s body tends to eradicate the disease autonomously. While in cats with weak immune systems, then kittens, elderly or sick cats the symptoms may experience the following symptoms:

  • fever;
  • diarrhea;
  • eye inflammation;
  • respiratory system problems in cats.

Faced with this symptomatology it is good to contact the veterinarian, who will examine the blood and feces of the animal, to ascertain the presence of particular antibodies, useful to fight the infection.

For cats with a good immune system no treatment will be needed, while those with weak immune systems will proceed with a therapy that becomes absolutely necessary in pregnant women.

In general, antibiotic treatment is used for two weeks. It will be essential to carefully follow all the veterinarian’s instructions, especially if a pregnant woman is present at home.


Rabies in cats is a fatal zoonosis and in some European countries the animal is considered a species at high risk for transmission to humans.

Although cats can be infected by bats (with the rabies virus or other lyssaviruses), the risk is still low, but a bite from an infected animal is enough to infect the disease, as the rabies virus is found in the saliva and secretions of animals.

The rabies vaccine is the only prevention measure for rabies. The disease in cat rabies goes through several stages, they are:

  • incubation period: it is a phase in which the cat does not show obvious symptoms. This period can last from a week to several months. Usually the first symptoms appear a month after the infection. During this period the disease spreads in the body.
  • prodromal period: this phase determines changes in the way the cat behaves. It can last from 2 to 10 days.
  • arousal or furious phase: typical phase of anger. The cat is extremely sensitive, shows abrupt behavioral and character changes and can bite or attack the owner and other people or animals.
  • paralytic stage.

The timing of the various phases and the symptoms can logically vary from cat to cat, although the main symptoms are: strange behavior, irritability, excess saliva (drool), fever, vomiting, loss of weight and appetite, fear of water, convulsions, paralysis.

In conclusion, in the presence of these symptoms the first thing to do is to isolate the cat to prevent it from transmitting the disease to other animals. Immediately contact the veterinarian who, depending on the stage of the disease, may opt for euthanasia, should it be advanced.

Vaccination is the only prevention, although it is more common for the dog. This is why in areas endemic for rabies, stray cats must always be approached with caution; handling and caring for stray animals must be considered dangerous, even if they appear to be healthy.


Ringworm in cats or rather, cutaneous mycosis in cats has always been a great fear for owners. This disease is caused by certain fungi that feed on the surface cells of the cat’s skin.

The same fungi can be transmitted from cat to dog and also from cat to human, particularly to children. The infection can be contracted directly (for example by stroking the cat) or indirectly (spread of fungi in the environment).

Unfortunately, many skin diseases are characterized by hair loss, which delays the diagnosis of ringworm. In fact, the symptoms can be: roundish patches without hair, slightly itchy, sometimes accompanied by slight skin redness.

The treatment of ringworm in cats consists of various drugs, both local and for oral use, to be used in combination and for a long time.

Feline leukemia and feline AIDS

FIV (aka feline AIDS) and feline leukemia (retrovirus) are two immunodeficiency diseases that affect and damage the cat’s immune system. It should be noted that these are two diseases that are not transmissible to humans, but between animals, yes.

This is why before welcoming a kitten from the street into your home, it is best to take him to the vet for a complete check of his health. The feline AIDS virus, found in blood and saliva, is transmitted by biting and scratching, but can be transmitted from pregnant cats to kittens.

The feline leukemia virus, on the other hand, is transmitted mostly via saliva. The symptoms of feline leukemia and feline AIDS are the same, namely: gingivitis, stomatitis, digestive disorders, anemia, fever, nausea, inflammation of the eyes and respiratory infections.

There is no cure for these diseases, but antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs can be used for secondary infections. There are also antiviral drugs that can slow down viral activity and immune stimuli. To safeguard health, care, quality food and periodic checks are necessary.

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