Parasitic infection is a common problem for many cats and owners, especially if the little ones go outdoors at all. In some cases, infection can very readily be transmitted from cat to human -- think roundworms, for example. Thankfully, feline giardia is not a very prominent risk for human beings.
Giardia is the name of an protozoan and microscopic parasite that affects humans as well as cats and dogs. The intestinal disease is generally transmitted through consumption of giardia cysts within stools. For example, if a cat somehow gets her mouth on a toy that was in an infected litter tray, she may very well contract the infection. According to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, giardia is especially prevalent in young kittens who have not yet reached the 1-year mark.
The question of whether a person can contract giardia from a cat is a rather contentious and uncertain one for many. However, the Centers for Disease Control indicate the possibility of a feline giving a person the intestinal infection is very remote. This is because the giardia strain that affects humans and pets is different.
By the same token, the Companion Animal Parasite Council notes that dogs and cats are not believed to be able to pass the infection to each other, either.
If you are concerned that you may have caught giardia from any source, be attentive to the disease's common signs, which include dehydration, nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea, protruding abdomen, throwing up, cramps, "greasy"-looking fecal matter, loss of weight and excessive gas. However, infected humans -- as with cats -- occasionally display absolutely no indications of a problem, so take note. Feeling "normal" in no way means you are necessarily giardia-free. A checkup with a doctor will be able to confirm your status with regards to the pesky infection.
Even if your chances of getting giardia from a cat are minimal, it's still important to be extremely cautious whenever dealing with pet fecal matter. Whether you're changing a litter box or gardening in a yard that houses stray felines, take your cleanliness seriously. Wear rubber gloves whenever possible, and always wash your hands with soap and warm water when you're done. Apart from the minimal possibility of giardia, you also may be able to catch roundworms, toxoplasmosis and a host of other diseases from cats, especially if you don't know their health backgrounds.
- Companion Animal Parasite Council: Intestinal Parasites - Giardia
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Giardia in Pets
- Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development: Giardia in Cats
- Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: Gastrointestinal Parasites
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Giardasis Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- KidsHealth: Giardiasis
- BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images