Categories: Zoonotic Diseases

Domestic cat has Q Fever and its zoonotic

Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada: A cat has been diagnosed with Q fever, a bacterial infection (Coxiella burnetii). Until today I hadn’t heard of domestic cats being infected with Q fever. It commonly affects farm animals such as goats, sheep and cattle. Farm workers can catch it from their animals so it is zoonotic (transmits from animals to humans).

Q fever under a microscope. Image: Wikipedia.

Although it is usually harmless in humans it can cause serious problems for some people. They develop flu-like symptoms within 2-3 weeks of being infected. The symptoms last up to 2 weeks.

Transmission of the bacteria occurs via blood, pee, poo, fur and wool for example. The bacteria is inhaled. You can also get it from drinking unpasteurised milk. Treatment is (1) blood tests (2) antibiotics if infected.

Prevention includes don’t (1) help animals give birth (2) touch animal poo, pee, blood or afterbirth (3) drink unpasteurised milk (4) eat in areas where animals are kept (comment: for domestic cats that is impractical and few people do it – do you?).

The experts don’t distinguish between farm animals and domestic cats although there must be a dintinction between how we interact with our cats compared to farm animals.

Cat Infected

Perhaps the cat concerned was a farm cat. We are not told. Update: I have noticed that the cat was resident at Dalhousie’s Faculty of Agriculture. Perhaps the cat was a college cat who had mixed with livestock.

Public health officials in Nova Scotia advise that people interacting with animals should practice good hygiene. However, cat owners do not wash their hands after cuddling their cat. I have never heard that advice except I think once I heard it in respect of toxoplasmosis but no one complies.

Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer said:

“For the general public, it’s just keeping this in the right context and practising some good general basic hygiene when it comes to their pets or other animals.”

Are you concerned about getting Q fever from your cat companion? I thought you’d say No. That’s what I’d say although I don’t want someone to lave a comment to tell me they contracted this infection from their cat because I advised them to ignore the official advice.


There is no vaccine for Q fever which is probably because it is not of specific concern for the general public.


The bacteria can live in the environment for over a year. It can also be aerosolised allowing it to travel at least five kilometres.

I am writing this to pass on information, no more. Realistically, I don’t think it is of any real concern to cat owners.

Source of Q fever: Story:

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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  • Per the CDC, zoonotic diseases carried and spread by cats to humans (from 2010):

    Afipia felis, Anthrax, Bartonella (Rochalimaea) henselae (Cat-Scratch Disease), Bergeyella (Weeksella) zoohelcum, Campylobacter Infection, Chlamydia psittaci (feline strain), Cowpox, Coxiella burnetti Infection (Q fever), Cryptosporidium Infection, Cutaneous larva migrans, Dermatophytosis, Dipylidium Infection (tapeworm), Hookworm Infection, Leptospira Infection, Giardia, Neisseria canis, Pasteurella multocida, Plague, Poxvirus, Rabies, Rickettsia felis, Ringworm, Salmonella Infection (including the most dangerous new super-strain found only in cats), Scabies, Sporothrix schenckii (Sporotrichosis), Toxocara Infection, Toxoplasmosis, Trichinosis, Visceral larva migrans, Yersinia pseudotuberculosis. [Centers for Disease Control, July 2010]

    The following can now also be added to CDC's list: Bird-flu (H1N1, H5N1, H7N2) , Bovine Tuberculosis, Sarcosporidiosis, Flea-borne Typhus, Tularemia, Rat-Bite Fever, SARS, an antibiotic-resistant strain of Staph aureus (MRSA -- Meticillin-Resistant Staph aureus) "The flesh-eating disease", Leishmania infantum, and now even deadly Chaga's disease.

    • Sal could you please tell us which diseases are spread from human to human or don't list them just give me the number. And the same for dogs.

      • After all that, I can't help but wonder what diseases are NOT transmitted from cats to humans. 😉

        • You think that are referring to the comment from a cat hater. I have not checked the list. But I am sure humans transmit far more diseases to other humans than cats do. And what about dogs?

          • Far less from dogs because it is majority law to keep dogs from running free in public areas where they could transmit diseases to other living things. Intelligent humans also take precautions from spreading diseases to one another. An unconfined cat has neither of those advantages. Even rats transmit far fewer zoonotic diseases than cats. Look it up. Being overran by a rat-infestation is actually healthier for a community than having a cat-infestation. No lie.

          • My question was not the prevalence of transmission of disease from dogs to humans but how many dog diseases are zoonotic.

          • Since dogs are not allowed to be without supervision or containment, I daresay far far less. They are less likely to contract all those diseases that cats bring home from all the places cats are allowed to freely roam today. Dogs may (and I stress "may") be able to contract just as many zoonotic diseases, but since they can't become infected (their containment preventing exposure to them and transmission to others) we may never know of how many actual zoonotic diseases are in the canine domain. Since you are so interested in the actual number of dogs' zoonotic diseases, why don't you look it up and report back to us, with a verifiable resource of your information, like the CDC. You can try to prove me wrong. I'm betting you won't be able to (prove me wrong), just due to the logistics of how zoonotic diseases are transmitted from animal to animal. Dogs do not suffer anywhere near as much from the same negligent behaviors that the owners of cats engage in and promote to one another.

    • Agreed. It's just that it's unusual. I don't recall this disease being discussed in relation to cats before.

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