Are Sick Cats Contagious?

Sick cats can cause a lot of worry to their pet owners. One of the worries may be about humans or other pets contracting the cat's illness.

Contagious Illnesses

Most of the diseases a cat can have that are contagious to humans or other animals are transmitted through bodily fluids or feces. There are illnesses, however, that can be contracted through respiration or wounds on a cat's skin.


Rabies, which most often affects young cats, can come in two forms: paralytic and furious. Furious rabies is the more dangerous of the two, causing a cat to suddenly attack, scratch and bite other animals or humans. The paralytic form of rabies will cause a cat's throat and the muscles of the mouth to become paralyzed, causing the cat to salivate a lot and not be able to swallow. A cat with any form of rabies is highly contagious.

Cat Scratch Disease

Cat scratch fever, or cat scratch disease, can be passed on to humans in the first few weeks after a cat is infected with the condition. It is thought that a sick cat's saliva carries the contagions, which can be passed to humans after a cat licks his paw and later scratches a person.


A human can contract parasites like hookworm, toxoplasmosis or roundworm from an infected cat. Usually the parasites are contracted by handling a cat's feces, like when cleaning a litter box. Toxoplasmosis is very dangerous parasite to pregnant women. They are advised to not handle cat feces or clean litter boxes during the term of their pregnancy.

Ringworm - a fungal parasite that affects a cat's skin, nails and hair - can cause an infection in humans through contact. Children are at the most risk of acquiring ringworm from a cat.


Cats can be carriers of salmonella, but a cat may not become sick from the bacteria. Humans and other animals can become ill from salmonella by handling an infected cat's feces.

Bubonic Plague

The bubonic plague, which still exists in very small numbers, can cause humans and other animals to acquire the infamous illness if they come in contact with an infected cat. A cat with "the plague" can infect people or animals through bites or scratches. A cat that sneezes can cause the contagions to be airborne.

Illness Prevention

Vaccinations can help a cat avoid becoming sick with diseases a human can acquire, like rabies. Shots, however, cannot prevent all illnesses and common sense has to step in. If you thinks your cat is ill, you should avoid direct contact with him until the cause of the illness is known. Wear latex or rubber gloves when handling a cat and his litter box. The cat should be quarantined to an appropriate kennel or cat cage and kept in separate room in the home, to keep exposure to other humans or pets at a minimum until he can be seen by a veterinarian.

Not all cat illnesses are transmittable to humans or other pets. However, one should consult a veterinarian as soon as possible if a cat is displaying symptoms of an illness.