Monday, November 23, 2009 12:11 PM

Preventing the Spread of Cold and Flu to Your Cat

Cold and flu season is upon us, and the additional threat of swine flu (H1N1) makes the issue of disease prevention especially pertinent. Colds and influenza can be quite easily passed on by you to your cat, however unwittingly. I just read an article in the newspaper which reported a case of H1N1 in a 13-year old cat in Iowa. Her owners has been infected with swine flu. Both people and cat recovered, but I thought this to be a timely discussion, so here we are!

Many people may not realize how easily pathogens can be transferred between themselves and their pets. Having a background in pre-veterinary studies, I may know a bit more about zoonoses (diseases transmissible between people and animals and vice versa) than the average person. I have always been very careful whenever I am ill to give the cats a wide berth. The lack of smooching and snuggling is made up by much lying about on the couch with soft blankets which the cats can lie on and burrow under.

Cats are particularly susceptible to upper respiratory diseases, for some reason. Also, the all-over licking method of bathing themselves gives germs a perfect point of entry from anywhere on the cat's body. Knowing this, be sure to practice your normal hygienic rituals with a bit of extra caution. Try not to touch your cats any more than necessary (I know, it's difficult), and be sure to wash your hands before doing so. Ditto for their meal preparation. Sneeze and cough into the crook of your arm to avoid releasing germs into the air. If you have young cats that tend to be waste-basket divers, be sure to dispose of used tissues where they cannot get to them.

If your cats sleep with you, it might be a good idea to have them sleep elsewhere for a few nights, just in case. If it is too difficult for either of you to sleep apart, it will probably be fine if they sleep at the foot of the bed. If they hang out around your head, though, other arrangements will have to be made until you are non-contagious. Even if you get a flu shot, be aware that everyone may shed viruses for a few days after an inoculation, so use caution around kitty!

Hopefully, both you and your cat will enjoy a healthy winter season. If, despite your best efforts, you do become ill, a little extra effort on your part should prevent your sickness from spreading to your cat (as well as other members of your household). As we all know, it's bad enough to be sick ourselves, but we feel really terrible when our pets are sick! As they say, an ounce of prevention...
Chat later!

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Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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