TB From Cats?

We’ve all heard of cat scratch fever, but cat Tuberculosis?  That’s a new one, but now a confirmed issue.  According to the New York Times, four people in England have contracted TB from their cats!  While officials in the United States are assuring people that there is “virtually nothing to fear,” the idea of getting TB from your cat is pretty scary.

The facts around these four incidents seem pretty unique.  All four people lived in southern England and contracted TB from a cluster of nine cats from different households that were sickened by Bovine Tuberculosis.  How the cats actually got bovine TB is not completely understood.  As an aside, in the US Bovine TB in people represents 1% of all TB in the US, and the most common way of contracting it is consumption of unpasteurized milk.  While interstate commerce of raw milk is illegal in the U.S. selling it within certain states, including California, is permitted.  The cats in question are thought to have contracted Bovine TB by eating infected rodents or by fighting with badgers, who also can carry the disease, and then spread it within the cat community.  How the rodents or badgers actually got the Bovine TB is also less than clear.

Once infected with Bovine TB, cats can spread it by coughing and direct contact.  The British government recommended putting all the infected cats to sleep to avoid risk to both the pet parents and treating veterinarians.  Five of the nine pet parents rejected the suggestion and treated their cats with antibiotics.  Of these, three recovered, one ended up being put to sleep, and one apparently disappeared.

So what does all this mean?  First, it may be a reminder of why keeping your cat safely indoors is a good idea (remember, you can always give them the chance to play “outside” at our Cat Safari Solarium) and second, it may be wise to avoid stray cats in the south of England for a while.

Thanks for reading!