I'd just been reading an article about the environmental overlap of free-roaming domestic cats and wildcats when my sneaky indoor cat slipped outside. So now I have added incentive to blog about the dangers of diseases outdoor cats can carry. Cali the cat is very cute right now as she chases bugs in the wildflowers and smart enough to evade me when I try and catch her. So why should I be motivated to cut this idyllic scene short?A Colorado State University study has documented that diseases such as Bartonellosis and Toxoplasmosis are present and shared between wildcats such as mountain lions, lynx, bobcats, and your cute outdoor kitty. Both of these can also be spread from cats to people. FIV (feline immunodefiency virus) is also present in domestic and wild cat populations but is not communicable to humans.
Another problematic disease that affects all cat species is Bobcat Fever. This disease is spread through ticks who contract the pathogen from wild cats and may then bite a domestic cat. Bobcat fever has been sensationalized being called "cat Ebola" because infected cats succumb to the painful disease within a week. Treatment only has a 25-60% success rate due to the quick, invasive nature of the disease.So if your outdoor cat starts showing signs of illness (refusal to eat and sluggishness), it is imperative to get treatment quickly. But indoor cats can also be exposed if dogs that aren't treated for ticks bring them inside.
As human populations continue to spread into the territories of wildlife, there is an overlap between roaming domestic cats and their wild counterparts. Pet owners need to be aware that their cats may be exposed to diseases and, conversely, their house cat may be putting wildlife at risk.
The takeaway from this study is that you might want to consider keeping your cat indoors. If this isn't an option for you, keep in mind that the listed diseases might be a factor if your neighborhood backs to wilderness that is inhabited by your cat's wild cousins.
I think I'll go back outside and try to catch my cat!
For more information, go to: Science Daily.
Featured cat photo by Garrison Gunter.