Cats and Pandemics

By Elisa-Black Taylor

This is a page about the cat’s involvement in pandemics. I’d like to caution the readers that this article is going to be one of my longest in awhile. It’s long because it’s important information we may all need one day to protect ourselves and our cats.

Definition of “Pandemic”: An epidemic over a large area that affects a large proportion of the population (Michael added this because he wasn’t sure what a pandemic was ;))

Cats and Pandemics
This is a mash-up collage by Michael. The newspaper is from the time of an outbreak of bubonic plague in London and the American man with the destroyed hands was bitten by his cat who had swallowed a rat that had eaten a flea that was infected with the plague. The plague rots the flesh.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

I also work in security, and once worked the emergency room at a local trauma center. The study of pandemics is right up there with excessive hand washing when you work in a hospital setting. Even now I’m expected to study terrorism, as it’s part of being in the security field.

I got the idea for this article after reading Michael’s recent article on the Boston Marathon bombings. I made a comment and later realized how many of you don’t realize how cats, even if not sickened in a pandemic, may be killed out of fear.

I want all of you to know I’m not just making this up out of thin air. The Center For Disease Control website backs up everything I’m saying and was the primary source for this article. Here are a few of the pandemics that have affected history and could easily happen again. If you’re like me, you worry what would happen to your family and whether you’d survive. You should also worry about your cats. Let me explain, using past epidemics and lots of research from the CDC website.


Between 1347-1429 A.D., Europe (especially the London area) was hit by this plague on several occasions. The first round killed 24-40% of the population. It’s transmitted by flea bites or secondarily by respiration. The Bubonic form has a 50-70% mortality rate. Other forms are 100% fatal and there is no immunity. It took Europe until the 19th century to repopulate from the millions who died.

The bacteria responsible, yersinia pestis, is spread through flea bites and rats. Other animals, including cats, can become infected by being bitten by the flea or ingesting the rat. Cats can die from the plague, or fleas that bit the cat can bite a human and pass the bacteria on to humans. Meaning cats would likely become the enemy of anyone trying to contain the spread of this disease.

In London, cats were initially blamed for the disease and widely slaughtered. This made things worse because the cats killed the rats. Rats were the spreaders of the disease.


The 1918 global pandemic of Spanish Influenza is the pandemic most people remember. It first hit in the U.S. in March 1918. Over 500 million people became sick, and 50 million died worldwide. According to the CDC

“the 1918 influenza pandemic had another unique feature, the simultaneous (or near simultaneous) infection of humans and swine.”

The H1N1 virus comes up a lot in the article I researched. So does the Avian flu, which is what the Spanish flu was believed to evolve from. Or into. After 90 years, the 1918 flu is still being studied.

Government studies have shown the flu epidemic shouldn’t have killed as many as it did. It kept mutating, and people should have developed an immunity if they survived round one. But many died in the second or third round of this global killer that actually hit in three parts between 1918-1919.

The Avian flu is a particular concern to the scientists of today. The CDC says “In addition to humans and birds, we know that pigs, tigers, leopards, ferrets and domestic cats can be infected with avian influenza A (H5N1) viruses. While domestic cats are not usually susceptible to influenza type A infection, it is known that they can become infected and die (both experimentally and naturally) with avian influenza A (H5N1) viruses and, in a laboratory/research setting can spread the virus to other cats. It is not known whether domestic cats can spread the virus to other domestic cats under natural conditions.”

The cat becomes infected when eating a bird carrying the H5N1 virus.


Caused by either bacteria or amoebas, dysentery is spread through the contamination of food and water by fecal matter. The parasite responsible is called Entamoeba histolytica. Cats can get dysentery, and anyone who accidentally handles the feces of an infected cat may become ill. This can be passed person to person. The big danger with Bloody Flux is the danger of dying from dehydration in a short period of time. The very young and very old are particularly at risk.

This is the illness that almost killed Anne Boyeln, wife of King Henry VIII.

In this century, dysentery is more likely to spread after a natural disaster or global catastrophe where people are living in unsanitary conditions. Still, the danger is there and reports show cats can spread it.


A lot of the problems cats may face, should we have another global pandemic, will likely be caused by the government in an effort to stop whatever deadly illness hits.

I recently read two Kindle books that proved rather upsetting from a cat lovers standpoint. They were works of fiction, but could be our future reality between all of the unidentifiable “bugs” out there and bio-chemical terrorism. One bad virus released by a terrorist could easily turn these books into reality.

The first novel was called Sector C by Phoenix Sullivan. It told of a plague that was a cross between Avian flu and mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy). The plague was believed to have started in either milk or meat. In an effort to stop the spread of the disease, which had a nearly 100% fatality rate, all of the livestock were ordered killed. Then a few domestic animals died of the new illness. That’s when the government ordered all domestic pets be killed. Imagine the number of people dumping their pets at shelters out of fear, even before the order to kill was issued. Or having to watch while the military went house to house killing the family pets.

The Flu (A Novel of the Outbreak) by Jacqueline Druga was the other. In it, the carrier of a deadly strain of flu was a cat. Not the initial carrier, but near the end of the novel when a town thought they had the virus under control. Then a cat slipped into the area where a town festival was being held and contaminated everyone.


I realize this is a worst case scenario and I do like reading fiction, but this could happen. Especially when you consider a person can be in the U.S. in the morning and travel to Europe by nightfall. A pandemic would take less than 24 hours to go global. It’s scary. And of course, the cat would likely meet a tragic end once the government becomes involves.

Comments anyone?


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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

33 thoughts on “Cats and Pandemics”

    1. Very interesting. I believe it sounds like ebola. Terrorists scare me with what they could unleash. I’ve even read the 1918 flu was a conspiracy that got out of hand. Of course everything tends to be called a conspiracy these days…

  1. I would never ever depend on our government to help during a pandemic. Its amazing how well hand washing actually works. I was a fanatic this past flu season. People here were wearing masks to the supermarket. The trick is to make your own and soak the mask in antiviral herbs as an added measure of protection. And to stockpile enough non perishable food to last at least a month in case of a quarantine order.

    I’m about to begin a 50 hour course that covers everything from basic security to bio-terrorism. I’ll be sure to write if any cat related topics turn up. I can say with all the different poisons out there a pandemic may not be necessary. There are easier ways than the flu to cripple a nation.

    1. Gina Shahbandar

      I just received this email, and could not believe it, after all the problems we have from rats overpopulation in our East and West coast and around the world; Florida Wild Life Commissioner insists on promoting a hostile policy toward cats:

      The commission voted in the past on making it legal to shoot cats on wetland, they did not inform the public about the vote ahead of time to give people the right to share their opinion and practice their democratic right, when the news leaked to the press ,the commissioner assured the public that he is not going to shoot the cats in their back yard!!!!!!

  2. Ruth (Monty's Mom)

    I know it’s not the same, but I got crypto when Milwaukee had its cryptosporidium outbreak and I’m still ticked off about it. That was the government making people sick through incompetence. Should we trust the same entity to help if there is a pandemic?

    Yesterday the Howard Ave waste water treatment plant, the one that made everybody sick, had their flag at half mast for those killed in Boston. Did they put it at half mast when they killed more people than that in 1992? Milwaukee’s government can’t even figure out to separate their sewer system. That deep tunnel they built has not helped one iota. So every time it rains a lot they dump a bunch of sewage into the lake to prevent back ups in basements. Then they pump water out of that same lake for our drinking water. These same dumbasses should not be trusted to make life and death decisions in the event of a pandemic. If the events you describe occur, over my dead body will anybody hurt Monty and I mean that literally.

    Sorry, but I’m ticked off because during the drought we were able to go two years with no sewage dumping and I swam in Lake Michigan almost every day all summer. No more of that. Even driving fifty miles north of Milwaukee won’t get me to a beach that won’t be closed due to contamination. It’s not a pandemic, but it’s a public health hazard being perpetrated by our government. It shows that we cannot trust our government to help in an emergency. They are too busy causing the emergencies themselves.

    1. It shows that we cannot trust our government to help in an emergency

      This is something I could say about the UK government too (on any issue for that matter). On a relatively minor level, they have decided to cull all badgers in Gloucestershire and West Somerset to slow down the spread of bovine TB but there is no evidence to show that it will work. Many people believe it to be cruel and the badgers are to be shot untrapped.

      1. Ruth (Monty's Mom)

        That’s horrible, Michael. And to do it with no real evidence or research to back up that it will help. But that’s the government. They just do something, anything, usually the option that will cost them the least amount of money or makes the largest number of people feel good regardless of whether it helps or hurts. Like Milwaukee’s deep tunnel to hold sewage runoff supposedly until it could be treated. By doing it that way they could bill all the suburbs for it. But it doesn’t work. For the same money they could have separated the sewers but Milwaukee would have had to pay the whole bill for their problem. This way my taxes out here in the burbs pay for it too. Except that we’re paying for a solution that does not work.

        Your tax dollars will go to pay for badgers to be shot, something you don’t want, which may not even help. Probably won’t help. I see no connection between helping cattle and shooting Bucky. People from Wisconsin love badgers because of our mascot Bucky Badger. Badgers never give up. They are tenacious and fearless. We like that.

        1. I hate the government for going along with the bl**dy farmers and country lot in deciding to kill all these badgers. 10-1 that it makes no damn difference. All we will have is dead badgers by the lorry load and that hurts.

    2. Gina Shahbandar

      ​During Hurricane Katrina, rats carrying bubonic fleas escaped a lab established ​for bio terrorist researchs, according to the news anchor; The sad news is that whoever was responsible for managing this extremely important lab, did not place a surveillance camera or took serious measures to prevent this from happening; no one knew how the rats escaped!! The government can’t control every bits and pieces of our actions and people should be responsible for this sort of negligence. The TV anchor added that FBI agents were sent to look for the rats!! this was ridiculous, ​​this is now tax money wasted, how and where one can search for specific rodents among others in New Orleans Hurricane devastated areas ?!!!!
      We have not heard since any update about these rats, I suspect they escaped forever and the fact that two rats can multiply to over a million in less than a year is scary. I pray they did not survive and wonder what if the government had the wisdom to send thousand of cats roaming the streets in search for the rats instead.

    3. Gina Shahbandar

      Mounty Mom,
      ​​Here in Orlando, Florida, ​One of Central Florida most beautiful and largest lakes: Lake Apopka ​ ​is realistically dead. Wild life that count on the lake for its survival disappeared. The lake was already suffering from farming, ​when ​giant rat’s invasion​ of 1999 came​ to ​add to the lake and animals misery in the area . The state realizing ​the seriousness of the problem, called for urgent federal help, the help surely arrived by charter planes loaded with poison. It controlled the rats and killed every single living bird, insect, animal that once lived in the lake vicinity. C hildren,​ elderly, and​ people with upper respiratory ​problem ​were asked to leave the area​; many couldn’t they had no place to go​.
      The rats disappeared ​for a while ​to ​return in 2006 in shape of mice that invaded people’s bed, plants, ​food, ​and ate even the computers ​’​ wire!!!!! ​Four​ major hurricanes in 2004 ​and all tropical storms in between ​washed ​all the poison into the lake, deep land and waterbed. Most advanced allergy clinics opened in Apopka, and $100 million has been spent to clean the lake in vain, the clarity in the lake is measured by inches rather than feet, and people are not allowed to swim or fish in the area, the real estate price dropped, and the smell around the lake prevent people from going out and close.
      I lived close by Apopka; my neighbors and myself have noticed when looking for a lost cat prior to the invasion, that there was no cats in the streets of Maitland and Apopka, we were discussing the risk of this phenomena when few months later the TV broadcast announced the rats invasion to Apopka.
      Until nowadays, no change has been done to the state guidelines about trapping and killing street cats, and all the owls and snakes they encouraged people to have to control rodents did not help to prevent the return of “Mickey Mouse”.

  3. Even though I would say this, my reading of these examples of pandemics is that the domestic, stray and feral cat is as much a victim of these diseases as us and we are as much carriers and spreaders of the disease as cats.

    People like Woody will want to use these examples to say that cats are monstrous creatures that just spread disease.

    But humans spread the disease as is the case for other mammals. This is the sad aspect of these diseases.

    Cats don’t start these diseases. They just get them. And if a cat is a stray and because of that he gets the disease, the cause is the cat’s owner for letting his cat stray.

    It is worrying, though, because there could come a time when not only unwanted cats are destroyed by the millions in the USA, as is the case now, but wanted cats could be slaughtered too.

  4. I have had both amoebic and bacilliary dysentary. It was horrible. Withing half ad I had to be put on a drip. Antibiotics usually do the trick but it drains you so fast you have to be quick to get the the doc or you could die. It’s pretty violent and painful and within half a day you can hardly walk. Thank god they have a cure for these things.

    1. I remember when I was living in Toronto we had a Sars epidemic or whatever it was and people were staying home and walking around with the faces covered. IT was really freaky. I was not careful about it and just got on with my life. I always seem to end up being the one involved in the various horrible experiences discussed on PoC 🙁

      1. A close friend of mine – my ex, who now has my cat Gigi, went to a wedding during the Sars outbreak and a few people who were at the wedding got sick and died – so the disease control people contacted her and told her she would have to be quarantined for one month at home. She was not allowed to leave her house for a month and was given various supplies so she would not go to the shops etc etc. I just remembered this now. I guess this must have happened to alot of people in Toronto but she and a few other people who were at that wedding are the only ones I know who were quarantined.

    2. Gina Shahbandar

      Bacillary dysentery, aka shigellosis is common in overpopulated areas with poor sanitation, shigellosis is like Cholera often occurs in epidemics; it rarely occurs in the United States; people usually contract the disease when traveling abroad; B.dysentery is transmitted by fecal-oral, IE: one touches a contaminated object, food or animal and eat before washing hands. Cats have nothing to do, in particular with this disease, like dogs, birds, or any other pet don’t have a strict tie to this epidemic disease.
      Cats are the cleanest animal on Planet Earth. A cat spend more than half its time bathing itself; its tongue include the “soap & conditioner” needed to do a perfect job. watch a white cat fall rolls in the mud, less than 24 hrs afterward the cat returns snow white again, and the smell is amazing, they smell as if it has a subtle aromatic conditioner on its fur. The tradition in Asia and the M.East: If a cat came from outside and touched your food, throw it away, if the cat has been inside for over 24 hours and touched your food, it is safe to eat it! Pet Cats contract diseases from outdoor and need to be treated for such, otherwise, outdoor cats are smart about finding the necessary herbs for cure as long as the outdoor is not saturated with pesticide that kills the good and bad herbs.

      1. You don’t really like people Gina 😉 Nor me sometimes. Some people are great but humankind is not good. Too flawed. I think we will become extinct in about 10,000 years.

        1. Gina Shahbandar

          Man has the ability to be a sublime creature closer to God than an angel, and can be an worse than Evil, it is our choice.
          Unfortunately, power, money, ignorance are man worst enemies and many people forgot the Golden Rule: We harvest what we plant. All what we need is compassion and knowledge to turn things around. I hope the new generation sees our flaws and avoid them. Amen 🙂

  5. MoreThanWikiEducated

    Here’s one good example of how a relatively unknown disease in California USA previously has now become a major health issue, because cats have gone into the surrounding countrysides and contracted a disease that is generally not found in human habitation in that part of the world. Children in that area being most vulnerable from trying to pet or adopt the “cute kitties” found roaming around their playgrounds and schools. Bringing this potentially fatal disease right into their own homes and subjecting all their other family members and pets to it. Many children have already been hospitalized for this. Google for: Cats Flea-borne Typhus Orange County CA

    1. Gina Shahbandar

      If this is true, you would not have found a cat roaming free in Europe or the Middle East where cats roam the streets as birds fly in the sky.
      Cats come to people at the restaurants and cafe to be patted and to fed and leave. It is the norm, no one gets sick or carry a disease. I guess because the cat is the only animal allowed to roam the streets, and dogs are kept in the rural areas, so cats do not come in contact with the dogs feces or other wild life as the case in the new urban developments. Man has to learn how to protect cats and allow them to survive in a clean and safe environment. This could be done by abstaining from spoiling the cats habitat and territories with other pets feces and urine. Cats need our protection to be able to protect us.

  6. MoreThanWikiEducated

    Please explain to the class how an animal, your cats in this case, which can carry and spread the plague all on their own, could have prevented the plague in Europe?

    Response from Michael:

    I did not say that cats could have prevented the disease. I am saying that cats could have helped slow down the spread of the disease because the plague is mainly caused by rodent flea bites. If one cat kills a hundred rodents and that cat becomes infected with the plague then we have a situation where at one time there were 100 rats and thousands of fleas we then have one cat (thousands of carriers to one). That is surely a reduction in carriers of the plague.

    Also people themselves spread the plague. You don’t mention that or other animals who helped spread the disease.

    Note: I have deleted most of this post because in some areas it insulted people who like cats and was biased against the cat. I won’t accept that.

    1. Gina Shahbandar

      Cats would have saved Europe from the Plague. Europe in the 13 century did not understand the concept of allergy caused by cats dandruff, they accused the cats of stealing people’s breath, they also did not know about the cat’s eye anatomy, when the extra lid in the cat’s eye closes to protect its pupil from a bright light the cat was accused of being inhabited by evil that looks at them through the cats eyes hence the term: Evil eye depicted…….

      See the remainder of this in an article on the following page:

        1. Gina Shahbandar

          Dear Michael,
          I just found some typing error related to the black cat in my previous comment, is there a way to fix that ? many thanks

        2. Thanks Michael, I am not really a Plague expert, rather a cat admirer, I have study the history of Europe for 4 years, and worked for the UN for short period of time, and in the health field for the longest time, and I LOVE to read. It hurts me to see people not learning from other nations experience, and to put the blame of a problem they created on a harmless and innocent creature that their life depends on, amazes me.
          Cats and dogs are man’s best friends, yet many abuses them and treat them like a pest, specially cats. Plague by no mean is the only disease the cat can protect man from, there are unlimited diseases related to rodents dropping and urine, there are the devastating economical loss by the damage locust do to our harvest, the over population of insects of all sort, including roaches, spiders, reptiles…etc.. we are saturating our food and water with pesticides rather than counting on a natural solution that are available to us and were created for this purpose. The price of ignorance is very high and we can’t afford it, not in this century, what happen in China today could be next door tomorrow.. we can’t afford not to speak and educate others.
          With Love

          1. Well said Gina. Humans are very arrogant and often ignorant at the same time: a toxic mix. I’ll do another page because what you write is very sensible and it needs to be said. I think we are more than just cat admirers. We want people to be less human-centric and self-obsessed and more concerned with, and better educated about, other things: wildlife, companion animals, nature, the planet, other cultures etc..

            Thanks for visiting and commenting. I have no idea where you live.

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