Can Cats Get Sick From Mold?

by Quentin Coleman, Demand Media
    Keep your cat's food in a sealed container to keep out moisture and mold.

    Keep your cat's food in a sealed container to keep out moisture and mold.

    The nasty smell coming from a wet basement and the rancid odor of long-expired milk are both the result of mold growth. While these fungi are key components of many natural ecosystems, some types pose a serious health risk for animals. Keep your kitty away from moldy food and environments.

    Toxic Black Mold

    Toxic black mold (Stachybotrys chartarum) is a dangerous mold. This fungus grows in dark, moist areas of the home and is particularly common in humid climates. Recently flooded houses are known to harbor unseen black mold growth inside walls and floors, according to RTK Environmental Group. Inhaling black mold spores leads to life-threatening breathing and heart problems in humans. Cats exposed to the spores may suffer from pulmonary hemorrhage, a deadly condition characterized by heavy bleeding in the animal's lungs. Take your kitty to the vet immediately if your kitty's coughs produce blood.

    Aspergillosis

    Toxic black mold isn't the only fungus that can infect your cat. A group of molds from the genus Aspergillus are also potential parasites that thrive inside your pet's body if given the opportunity. Your kitty can become ill after inhaling floating spores released by mold colonies. Aspergillus occurs both inside the home and in outdoor environments. It can also contaminate food, so keep your cat away from trash containing spoiled meat, vegetables and dairy. Healthy adult cats are rarely infected by the fungus, but kittens and cats with chronic immune conditions have a much higher risk of getting sick after exposure to spores, according to VCA Animal Hospitals. Runny nasal discharge, bodily weakness and labored breathing are all signs that Aspergillus has infiltrated your kitty's lungs and sinuses.

    Allergies

    Sneezing, runny eyes and other symptoms of allergies are no fun for your cat, and it's very possible that mold is the reason he's not feeling great. Mold is one of several common environmental allergens. Exposure to mold spores causes lingering symptoms in allergic kitties, but some cats are particularly susceptible and may have a severe reaction in a matter of seconds. Move your cat to a clean and dry room until you take her to the vet for a checkup. Take her in immediately if she's breathing heavily or has trouble standing up. If the vet rules out viral infections and other common allergens, he may identify mold as the cause of your kitty's discomfort. Have your home tested for mold and contact a professional to have the affected material cleaned or replaced.

    Ingestion

    Mold certainly makes food smell and taste bad, but it can can also turn it into a deadly poison. Some molds release chemicals called mycotoxins, which don't mesh well with your pet's stomach. While cats instinctively avoid spoiled food, they may willingly consume desirable substance like cheese or sour cream even if it's moldy, according to the SPCA. If your kitty starts having muscle spasms or body tremors, take him to the vet or animal hospital as soon as possible. Convulsions and other life-threatening symptoms can develop as the mycotoxins poison your cat's body.

    Nontoxic Molds

    While mold growth in your home isn't a good thing, don't start evacuating after finding a few spots behind the fridge. Only a handful of mold species are toxic to people and pets, so serious health problems from mold exposure are pretty rare in cats. Most of the more than 100,000 types of mold aren't particularly dangerous, according to the National Association of Realtors. Clean small patches of mold with soap or detergent, and keep your eye on your kitty for signs of allergies or illness. Some companies offer air quality testing services to identify hazardous mold spores and other toxins in your home.

    About the Author

    Quentin Coleman has written for several news publications as well as the University of Delaware's public relations department. He also spent more than 10 years working with a local animal shelter to help nurse kittens, treat sick cats and domesticate feral animals. Coleman graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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