One of the fun things about having a kitten is snuggling with her -- after she's slowed down from all her play, of course. If you've been feeling under the weather, however, don't worry about passing it on to Kitty. It's rare for people and cats to share illnesses.
Mononucleosis: the Kissing Disease
Mononucleosis, usually referred to as "mono," is a common illness for people to contract, particularly teens and young adults. It's caused by a virus, spread through contact with saliva, mucus from the nose and throat, and tears. It's easy for humans to transmit the disease to each other, so if you have mono, take care not to share drinking glasses and eating utensils -- and take it easy on the kissing.
Kitty is Safe
Although your roommate may need to be careful around you, Kitty is safe from getting mononucleosis. The virus that causes the disease is not one that is shared between humans and cats. There aren't many diseases that cats and humans share, which are referred to as zoonotic illnesses. In fact, you're more likely to pick something up from Kitty than the other way around.
Zoonotic diseases occur when a person has direct contact with the secretions or excretions, such as saliva or feces, from an infected cat. People also can be infected through contact with the cat's food or water, or from fleas or ticks from an infected cat. The most common of these diseases is cat-scratch disease, otherwise known as bartonellosis. If Kitty bites or scratches you when she has this bacterial infection, you may experience some swelling in your lymph nodes, fever, joint soreness and a decreased appetite. It can have serious consequences for people with compromised immune systems. Kitty can pass along parasitic infections, such as tapeworm, or fungal infections, like ringworm. Toxoplasmosis, a protozoal infection, is one of the most serious infections Kitty can transfer to you.
Preventing Zoonotic Illnesses
Basic hygiene, such as washing your hands after cleaning Kitty's litter box and playing with her, will go a long way in preventing the spread of such illnesses. Keeping her inside where she's less likely to hunt, kill and eat infected prey also will minimize the chance she picks something up to share with you. Although you may wish to trade kisses with her, it's best not to allow her to lick your face.
Keeping Kitty Healthy
Though you're not going to share your virus with Kitty, if you spend time with other cats, it's possible you could transfer something like an upper respiratory virus to her. Viral upper respiratory infections are highly contagious among cats, so it's common for cats in animal shelters and catteries to break out with this illness. If you handle a cat with an upper respiratory infection, make sure you change clothes and thoroughly wash your hands before you interact with Kitty. The secretions shed from the infected cat can catch a ride home with you and infect Kitty because the virus can live for 24 hours or longer.
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