New Study Finds Domesticated Cats and Wildcats Can Share Disease

For all those who love felines and own one or more, it is important to note that domesticated felines are susceptible to illnesses that affect wildcats.  A new study led by Colorado State University has found that domesticated cats living in the same area as wildcats, such as bobcats and cougars, share the same diseases.

The three diseases studied were Bartonellosis, Toxoplasmosis, and Feline Immunodefeciency Virus (FIV). Bartonellosis and Toxoplasmosis can be transmitted to humans, but luckily, FIV cannot be spread from feline to human. The study also found that domesticated felines do not have to come into direct contact with wildcats to contract a disease. What is scary about these findings is that domesticated cats who acquire any one of these diseases can bring the illness home, and diseases such as Toxoplasmosis can pose a serious health risk to infants and/or adults with compromised immune systems.

The study also demonstrated that the locality and spread of such illnesses is impacted by urban development and major freeways which may restrict the movement of animals.  
Sam Scheiner, program director for the Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases (EEID) Program, states that as human population expands, human-wildlife interaction will increase, and these interactions will have an impact on both humans and wildlife.  Thus, in a time and age where space is limited and must be shared, it is important to understand that illnesses can be spread from us or our domesticated animals to wildlife or the other way around.

Bartonellosis, commonly referred to as “cat scratch fever,” is a bacterial infection caused by an infection acquired after being scratched by a cat.  However, Bartonellosis does not usually cause a severe infection.  In felines, Bartonellosis can cause inflammatory effects.  Toxoplasmosis is a parasite that does not usually cause symptoms in healthy individuals.  However, toxoplasmosis can cause headache, fever, muscle pain, and sore throat for some.  For individuals with compromised immune systems, toxoplasmosis can cause confusion, fever, headache, retinal inflammation, and seizures.

Photo credit: genome.gov/pressDisplay.cfm?photoID=42

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