AAFP updates guidelines on feline zoonoses

Published on November 14, 2019

'What Can I Catch from my Cat?' Feline Zoonoses brochure coverMany benefits come with having pet cats, according to the American Association of Feline Practitioners, but education is key to prevent transmission of zoonoses from these animals. To that end, the AAFP on Oct. 15 released updated Feline Zoonoses Guidelines online ahead of publication in the November issue of the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. In publishing the guidelines, the AAFP aims to provide accurate information about feline zoonotic diseases to cat owners, physicians, and veterinarians to allow logical decisions to be made concerning cat ownership.

The AAFP also aims to address misinformation that exists about cats and disease transmission. 

The AAFP created a panel of veterinarians and physicians who worked closely together to create a document that can be used to support the international one-health movement. This version of the guidelines builds on the AAFP’s first Feline Zoonosis Panel Report, published in 2003. In 2006, the AAFP also published a panel report on feline bartonellosis or cat scratch disease. The guidelines focus on new information published since 2003 and provide an updated reference list and recommendations. The panelists based the recommendations on published data when available and took into consideration recommendations of other public health–affiliated groups.

The guidelines cover enteric zoonoses; zoonoses from scratch, bite, or exudate exposure; ocular and respiratory zoonoses; zoonoses of the urogenital tract; vector-borne zoonoses; and how to decrease the risk of zoonotic transfer of disease from cats. The guidelines are accompanied by a brochure for cat owners, “What Can I Catch from my Cat?” The brochure discusses how zoonotic organisms are spread, provides examples of potential cat-associated zoonoses, and explains how to decrease risk.

The guidelines provide the following summary points:

  • While humans are rarely infected with a zoonotic agent by exposure to a healthy cat, there are many potential infections that can occur.
  • Disease is generally more prevalent or more severe in people with immunodeficiency-inducing disorders, the very old, the very young, those receiving chemotherapy or glucocorticoids for immune-mediated diseases, organ transplant recipients, and cancer patients.
  • Cats should have consistent deworming and should be prescribed vector control.
  • Cats with clinical signs of disease should be assessed by a veterinarian to determine the risk of zoonotic disease transmission and to have the clinical abnormalities treated.

The guidelines and brochure are available at the AAFP website.