Bacteria are opportunistic buggers. The one called Staphylococcus is certainly so. It lives on about a quarter of the human population and can take up residence on cats. Full-blown staph infection typically occurs from injury or other illness, and not due to any environmental dampness.
The Staphylococcus aureus bacterium is essentially a microscopic freeloader. It can live in the noses and on the skin of a person or animal for a long time without creating much trouble. It's not common on cats, but it's not unheard of, either. Cats can pass this bacteria to humans under the right conditions, such as if a person with a weakened immune system or open wound touches an infected cat.
S. aureus is patient and lies in wait for the opportune time for attack. Normally, healthy skin and a fully functioning immune system are all that are needed to keep the bacteria at bay, but if your cat has an open wound or is battling another illness, he's vulnerable to this infectious attack. A weakened immune system or open wound is an open invitations for S. aureus to cause havoc. In most cases this infection occurs on the skin in the form of abscesses, rashes or severe itching.
As if S. aureus wasn't a bad-enough bug to deal with, it's sort of the Superman of bacteria -- able to withstand most antibiotics meant to treat it. Methicillin-resistant S. aureus, or MRSA, strains of this bacteria are essentially immune to most of the normal medicinal treatments offered by vets; they require more extensive testing. Some MRSA variations are immune to certain antibiotics but not others, so your vet must determine what particular strain your cat has before offering any medication at all. Throwing the wrong antibiotic at the infection could make it more resistant, meaning more testing.
In most cases, specifically if your cat has just a common staph infection, a round of antibiotics should kick the bacteria's booty and make your cat right as rain. MRSA-type infections require more research, testing and solutions, meaning it could take a little longer for your kitty to regain his health. Generally speaking, keeping the infection clean with an antibacterial wash helps kill the bacteria and prevent them from spreading and multiplying, which can aid in healing infections and preventing further ones.
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