Salmonella is a type of bacteria that affects the intestinal tract. Humans contract salmonella infections most commonly through contaminated water or food. But what about our pets? Can cats get salmonella? Learn why cats can get salmonella, as well as the top reasons they may be exposed to the bacteria. Find out how you can prevent it!
So, can cats get salmonella?
Yes, cats can get salmonella and its resulting bacterial disease—called salmonellosis—just like we can. Kittens and cats with weak immune systems are more likely to show signs of the disease.
Cats can also be carriers of salmonella without showing symptoms of illness, while shedding the bacteria in their feces.
Top 3 reasons for salmonella in cats
1. Raw meat
Cats can get salmonella through consuming raw meat. This is a very real possibility, as some pet parents believe in feeding cats a raw meat diet. Proponents say it is the “biologically appropriate diet” for cats, since it closely mimics what a cat would eat in the wild. While cats are indeed obligate carnivores, they, too, can be sickened by raw meat that isn’t properly prepared or sanitized. In addition to salmonella, cats can contract dangerous bacteria and parasites from raw meat like E.coli, listeria, campylobacter, and toxoplasmosis.
2. Turtles and other pet reptiles
Have a pet turtle in the house? Unfortunately, you and your family members (two-legged and four-legged) are at risk of exposure to salmonella. Turtles commonly carry salmonella on their outer skin and shell, which can spread to humans upon contact and thereby contaminate other surfaces in your home. Other pet reptiles like bearded dragons, geckos, and snakes are also common carriers of the bacteria. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling pet reptiles.
3. Wildlife and the outdoors
Outdoor cats, or cats that are allowed outdoors part of the time, are more at risk of contracting salmonella due to their exposure to wildlife. Cats are notorious hunters of birds and rodents—both animal populations that may carry salmonella bacteria and other diseases. Not only can cats get salmonella from eating infected prey, they can pick it up after drinking from contaminated outdoor water sources.
Symptoms of salmonella poisoning in cats
Salmonellosis in cats will look much the same as it does in humans. If your cat becomes sickened from salmonella, you may see the following signs:
- Mucus or blood in stool
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Swollen lymph nodes
If you notice these symptoms in your cat, particularly if any of them are severe, you’ll want to have a veterinarian examine your cat. Left untreated, salmonellosis can lead to gastroenteritis or septicemia in cats.
Most cats will recover from salmonella with outpatient treatment, including antimicrobial medication and temporary restriction of food intake. In severe cases, your cat may need fluids and electrolytes replenished in-clinic, a temporary feeding tube, or even blood or plasma transfusions.
Cats can give you salmonella poisoning – and vice versa
Salmonellosis is a zoonotic disease, in that it can be passed between animals and humans. Even if your cat doesn't show symptoms of salmonella infection, he can shed the bacteria in his feces.
Tips to prevent salmonella in cats:
- Don’t feed your cat raw or undercooked meat.
- Keep your cat indoors.
- If you have pet reptiles, always wash your hands after handling. Avoid letting reptiles roam far from their cage, and be sure to disinfect all surfaces they touch.
- If you have multiple cats in the house, make sure to thoroughly clean any shared litter boxes, food bowls, and water bowls to avoid spread of infection.
Tips to prevent your own exposure to salmonella from cats:
- Wash your hands after cleaning the litter box.
- Disinfect litter boxes, food and water bowls, and other surfaces an infected pet has come in contact with.
- Wear gloves while gardening. (Even if your cat doesn’t go outside, there may be neighborhood cats that like to use your garden as a litter box.)
So, can cats get salmonella? Now you know that cats can get salmonella, and that it can be passed to you and your family members. Use these tips to prevent or recognize salmonella in cats, so that you can keep your kitty healthy and your family safe!