Invisible’s new continuing medical education course, “Zoonotic diseases and pet cats,” describes common diseases that can spread from cats to humans, along with some simple prevention tips. It’s taught by Erin Lashnits, MS, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, a clinical assistant professor in small animal internal medicine at University of Wisconsin’s School of Veterinary Medicine. Her pedigree as a veterinarian and a cat lover includes an MS degree in biology from Stanford University, a DVM from Cornell University, and a PhD in comparative biomedical sciences from North Carolina State University.
There are about 370M domestic cats and 600M unowned cats around the world, and they all come with a certain amount of disease risk. In this course, Dr. Lashnits provides an overview of these risks, as well as preventative measures to take when introducing a new cat into a home.
In Dr. Lashnits’ experience, she sees cat bites as a concerning risk. There are an estimated 400,000 cat bites a year, and a high percentage of these may lead to deep infections.
“Cat bites are much more likely to get infected than dog bites,” said Dr. Lashnits. “So taking care to play safely with cats and kittens is super important – use toys, not fingers.”
Fleas are also a major concern, since they can transmit, bartonelloses, plague, and rickettsial diseases. Toxoplasmosis and various types of worms can also be transmitted from cat feces. To avoid these diseases and others she recommends daily cleaning of litter boxes and year-round flea, tick, and heartworm medicine.
Dr. Lashnits also provides a checklist for new cat owners:
- Make sure your new cat is vaccinated, dewormed, and treated for fleas and ticks before taking it home.
- Keep your cat quarantined for at least a week before giving it the run of the house, to minimize stress and look for signs of disease.
- Discourage children from letting kittens bite their hands during play.
- Avoid feeding your cat raw food to prevent food-borne diseases.
- Take your cat for routine veterinarian checkups.
- Provide your cat with year-round flea, tick, and heartworm protection.
- Get into a routine of cleaning litter boxes daily.
The Invisible Education Initiative, funded by the Montecalvo Foundation, provides free, accredited Continuing Medical Education (CME) courses that focus on vector-borne and environmental illness within a One Health framework. These courses are available to clinicians and the public. To donate to this initiative and to learn about Invisible International, please go here http://invisible.international/give.