If your kitty has a skin infection, a chance exists you'll have one, too. Staph is one of several rash-causing diseases that can jump from cats to humans. Keep an eye out for skin health issues on your kitty, especially if kids or immune-suppressed individuals inhabit your home.
Cats can carry and transmit the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, which is responsible for staph infections. This germ is common; roughly 20 percent of people have it on their skin, according to Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine website. Staph becomes a problem when it enters an open wound. The infection causes a bumpy red rash that can extend over several square inches of skin. Healthy adults have little to worry about, but the disease can be dangerous for pregnant women, children and people suffering from autoimmune disorders. Cats can transmit the normal or methicillin-resistant strain of staph, but you are more likely to contract it from elsewhere in the environment.
Cat Scratch Disease
Cat scratch disease is a bacterial infection that cats transmit when they bite or scratch. About 40 percent of cats carry it at some point in their lives, according to the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association. Much like staph, cat scratch is mostly a problem for vulnerable individuals and children. Many people that contract it never even realize they are infected. Swollen lymph nodes, fever and fatigue are the primary warning signs. Call your doctor if the area your cat bit or scratched is visibly inflamed or infected.
If you start getting itchy red bumps after holding or petting your kitty, she may have creepy-crawlies in her fur. Mites and fleas are common sources of skin irritation in cats, and their bites cause rashes in humans. Mange mites are tenacious critters that can produce quite a bit of skin damage and hair loss on your kitty. They can't actually infest humans, but they can and will bite you if given the chance -- such as when you're petting your infested kitty. Don't rely on a visual inspection to identify mites; most of them are too small to see without a magnifying lens.
Treatment and Prevention
It's easy to dismiss scratching and hair loss in your cat, but you should never ignore it just because it can't spread to you. Call your vet if your kitty develops bald patches and red, itchy skin. Keep her isolated from people and other animals until your vet gives you a diagnosis. Wear disposable gloves before touching your pet's skin. Make sure kids know not to pet her for now. Keep your cat indoors to reduce her chances of picking up pathogens and parasites. If your cat continues to give you skin rashes, discuss the possibility of cat dander allergies with your doctor.
Infections from Excrement
Cleaning the litter box is never fun, but knowing you can get sick from doing it makes it even less enjoyable. Pregnant women and immune-suppressed individuals should avoid litter boxes due to the risk of toxoplasmosis, which is caused by a common parasitic protozoa. Cats can carry it without being sick themselves; most healthy adult humans overcome it without developing symptoms. Acute infections can cause skin rashes and make it hard to breathe, according to the Merck Manual Home Home Health Handbook. Cats can also shed hookworms when they use the bathroom. These tiny parasites can get under your skin if you touch infected feces or dirt. They migrate for a short time before dying, leaving behind an itchy, rashlike trail.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Quentin Coleman has written for various publications, including All Pet News and Safe to Work Australia. He spent more tan 10 years nursing kittens, treating sick animals and domesticating semi-feral cats for a local animal shelter. He graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor's degree in journalism.