You've already gone through enough trauma if you or a member of the household requires a liver transplant. Potentially having to rehome your beloved cat just adds to the stress. Depending on your situation, it might be possible for a liver transplant patient and felines to share living quarters.
While a liver transplant can literally give a person his life back, that doesn't mean he is home free. For the rest of their lives, liver patients must take daily immunosuppression and anti-rejection medications, always on a very strict schedule. Minor problems that a healthy person could slough off can prove life-threatening to the transplant patient. That means that interaction with a beloved pet will also have limitations.
Cat scratches and bites that are part of normal play can harm immuno-compromised liver transplant patients. In rare cases, liver transplant patients living with cats have developed cat scratch fever. Symptoms include fever and skin lesions, while testing shows lesion development in the liver. Cats living in the home of a transplant patient should have their nails clipped regularly -- but not by the patient.
Transplant patients may never empty the litter box or handle cat waste. Even protective measures such as wearing surgical gloves when cleaning the box are iffy. While liver transplant patients shouldn't pet cats, sometimes that's just too hard to resist. After petting or playing with a cat, the patient should wash her hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap. Don't allow cats to sleep in the patient's bedroom.
Before you or a family member had a transplant, you might have waited a day or so if your cat appeared to have a mild illness before taking him to the vet. But now, because transplant patients are so vulnerable to disease, you'll need to take your cat to the vet immediately if he's not quite right, to protect the transplant patient. A cat experiencing diarrhea is no longer a "wait-and-see" situation. Your vet must run tests on the stool to see if the cat is infected with salmonella or similar bacteria. The transplant patient should not handle the stool sample.
If your cat was formerly an indoors-outdoors kitty, that's not the case anymore. Letting him outside not only exposes him to the danger of cars and stray dogs but also to those presented by various parasites from rodents and birds, as well as to diseases carried by other cats.
If you want to add a new cat to the home of a transplant patient, have the animal thoroughly examined and given a clean bill of health before allowing it entrance to the dwelling. Since young cats, with immature immune systems, are more likely to carry disease, consider bringing an older cat into the home.
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.
- Centers for Disease Control: Organ Transplant Patients
- Henry Ford Transplant Institute: Liver Transplantation
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Cat Scratch Disease Causing Hepatic Masses After Liver Transplant
- PubMed: Dermatologic Problems in Patients Who Have Undergone Liver Transplantation
- Oregon Health and Sciences University: Resuming Life After Liver Transplant
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.