Contagious Cat Diseases

Contagious cat diseases can sometimes pass to an owner. Most are spread through contact with body fluids or feces, and also from sores or breaks in the skin. Some are spread from fleas and ticks that carry disease.

Zoonotic diseases, those spread from cats to humans, are fairly uncommon and generally occur in people who have weak immune systems such as the elderly, babies, or those with diseases already. Here are some of the most common cat diseases that are contagious to humans.

Salmonella in Cats

This is a bacterial infection that is spread through contact with feces or contaminated food. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and fever. Most cases do not require treatment, but some people experience severe diarrhea and infection that could spread to other organs. Treatment usually involves intravenous fluids and electrolytes.   

Cat Scratch Disease

This disease is also a bacterial infection, and is the most common disease spread from cats to their owner. If you are scratched or bitten by a cat, you should watch for symptoms such as:

  • Swollen Lymph Nodes (near scratch or bite)
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Sore Muscles
  • Poor Appetite

The best way to avoid cat scratch disease is to keep your cat indoors, control fleas, and try to avoid bites or scratches from your cat. The average person recovers from this disease with no treatment, but those with lower immune systems may experience more severe symptoms which may require antibiotics.

Feline Ringworm

Ringworm is actually a fungal infection, not a worm. If you notice a dry, scaly patch on your cat’s skin, it may be ringworm. If so, you should avoid contact with the infected skin, because it is contagious through contact. Your veterinarian may recommend a topical cream such as medicated shampoo or sulfur dip for your cat. In humans, ringworm appears as round, red spots with a scaly ring around them. They are itchy, but can be treated with antifungal cream.


Toxoplasmosis is a protozoan infection caused by a parasite. Cats can get this disease from eating rodents or birds that may contain feces from another cat. This disease can be contagious to cat owners if they are not careful. To avoid this, simply wear gloves when scooping litter or picking up cat droppings. Pregnant women and those with low immune systems should allow someone else to scoop litter. Toxoplasmosis can be treated with antibiotics.


Rabies is a viral disease that can be found in warm blooded animals. It is usually caught through the bite of a rabid animal. Most cats will catch the disease from wild animals such as raccoons or bats. Rabies usually requires that the cat be euthanized. In humans, rabies can be serious and even fatal if not diagnosed early. There are some ways to keep your cat, and you, from contracting rabies:

  • Keep the cat indoors
  • Vaccinate all pets for rabies
  • Eliminate fleas and ticks when possible
  • See vet immediately if you suspect your cat has been bitten by a wild animal