Infections Cats Get From Other Pets

If you notice symptoms of certain contagious diseases in one of your pets, cats should be treated as well. There are several conditions that can spread from domestic and wild animals to your pet cat, and some of them can be serious.

Distemper or Feline Panleukopenia

Feline panleukopenia or distemper is a viral disease that is highly contagious from cat to cat. It is especially dangerous for kittens. Most pet cats are vaccinated against this illness, and its incidence has declined in recent years. In feral cat populations, however, the infection rate is high.


Aspergillosis is a fungal respiratory infection. Aspergillus is found in most domestic animals and many wild animals. Cats with compromised immune systems are more susceptible to the virus, which causes inflammation of the sinus cavity and pneumonia.


Ringworm is a contagious fungal infection of the skin, hair or claws. It is spread by contact with infected pets. Ringworm fungus can be transmitted back and forth between dogs, cats, horses, rodents and humans. Cats, however, are the primary host.

Signs of ringworm include bald, scaly patches surrounded by broken hairs, usually on the face, ears and feet. Infected pets are treated with antifungal medications and the premises must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.


Mange is caused by a microscopic mite. This parasitic insect burrows under the skin and lays eggs, causing intense itching and hair loss. Mange can be contracted from horses, dogs, rodents and birds. Scabies, ear mites, walking dandruff and trombiculosis are all mite-related manges that affect cats. Insecticidal dips and premises treatments may be needed to eliminate mites.


Internal and external parasites can be transmitted back and forth from cats to dogs, horses, rodents, birds and humans. The most common internal parasites in cats are:

  • Roundworms
  • Hookworms
  • Tapeworms

Internal parasites are most commonly spread through contaminated feces. Remove and dispose of manure and other pet feces promptly and properly and speak with your veterinarian about a regular program of deworming for all domestic animals.

External parasites that spread throughout domestic and wild animal populations include:

  • Fleas
  • Ticks
  • Mites
  • Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis or pink eye usually develops as a result of exposure to the feline herpesvirus-1. Pink eye can spread quickly between pets. If an infected pet is discovered in the house, it may be necessary to treat all pets within the household.


Spread by fleas living on rats and other rodents, plague still exists in the United States. Cats contract plague by consuming or being bitten by an infected animal. Symptoms in cats include high fever, lethargy, enlarged lymph glands, ulcers in the mouth, skin lesions and diarrhea. Plague is treated with antibiotics.


Glanders is primarily an equine disease, but it has been found in cats, dogs and rarely, humans. It is a contagious bacterial disease that causes ulcerating nodules to appear in the upper respiratory tract and skin. Glanders is a serious, sometimes fatal disease that requires complete quarantine and possible euthanasia of infected animals. It is a pet health emergency that requires immediate veterinary treatment.

Cat health depends on a good diet, regular exercise and routine veterinary checkups. Contagious diseases are less likely to spread when you follow your veterinarian's pet health advice.