Categories: Cat Healthringworm

Rescue staffers spreading ringworm to cats

We know that ringworm is a zoonotic disease.  When we discuss zoonotic diseases we almost invariably refer to the transmission of a disease from animals to us.  In other words, we are referring to the transmission of a disease between different species and in the case of ringworm we are talking about transmission from a nonhuman animal to a human.

But, of course, zoonosis also applies to the transmission of diseases from the human animal to animals.  Sometimes I think we forget that because humans don’t like to think of themselves as a species of animal.

Because ringworm can be transmitted from a person to a cat it makes me wonder whether, in cat shelters, the spread of ringworm, which as I understand it is quite a concerning problem, occurs because employees at the shelter pickup the ringworm from a cat and then transmit it to another cat as a vector or carrier of the disease.

I have not stumbled upon a discussion about this possibility on the Internet, which is why I am writing this short article.

I have ringworm on my right, lower leg (see picture above). I have had ringworm on my legs ever since Charlie, my late boy cat, came into my life. I always thought that he gave it to me when he rubbed against my legs in the morning when I fed him.

However, it is also quite possible that I might have given it to him having picked up the disease from someone else or another animal.

Ringworm is highly contagious and extremely difficult to eradicate in shelter facilities. The two go together by which I mean that where a disease is highly contagious, it will automatically be difficult to eradicate in a closed facilities like a cat shelter.

From my experience, too, it is difficult to get rid of in a cat. Other people may have had other experiences but my experience comes from my veterinarian who indicated to me that it will be difficult to eradicate ringworm from Charlie and it wasn’t worth the effort. It can be quite difficult to diagnose as well because the symptoms are not always obvious.

I wonder whether it has occurred to anybody else that shelter workers might be helping to spread ringworm throughout the cats in their care? Obviously this is happening inadvertently and it would seem very difficult to avoid it, but if people agree that it is a problem in cat shelters, does management take steps to minimise the spread of this irritating disease?

For the sake of clarity, and I’m sure you are aware of this, ringworm is simply a fungal infection which causes skin inflammation and blistering in the form of a ring or horseshoe, hence its name.

For people, the treatment is to apply a broad based, topical antifungal cream.

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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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  • I too got ringworm, from my kitten, it's a real pain in the
    @£% to get rid of, 6 months on after many and varied treatments I think she is o.k as I can't see any big holes in her fur any more and just the occasional scratch nowadays,
    mine was never as bad as yours though, early stage itching only and only one small spot at a time on my arms, she gave it to the dog too who seems to be taking longer for the old spots to heal. Ringworm, ear mites so bad I couldn't see into her ears and just skin and bones when I got her. Looking good now though.

    • Your comment is a very good one because it emphasises how troublesome ringworm is. Also you have battled through to fix things. I love to read about that. We are told that a person's immune system should clear up ringworm but despite being fairly fit for an old person (65) I can't clear it without anti-fungal creams and even then it takes 6 months. Ridiculous.

      • I am not so young myself (60), I must admit I felt a lot better about it after finding out it is not a worm! I use Anti-fungal cream too, I'm not as fit as I would like but so far I have been lucky with my health, I've pretty much decided to wait it out now and let my immune system take care of it, though the cream does seem to work to a certain extent.

  • Worker touches an infected cat then goes to another cat, then another and another...
    The worker is the cause of shelter spread.
    They don't seem to know the meaning of universal precautions.

  • Sounds quite likely that ringworm is being spread between people and animals. I knew it could be spread from animals to people but not the other way around. I've never had a cat with ring worm and I've never had it myself. Does it itch Michael? Or hurt? have to gotten rid of it now?

    • It itches and is hard to get rid of. It takes months (6 months) to get rid of it. This is the point, humans don't consider that they spread zoonotic diseases to animals.

      • Fungal infections are to get rid of though aren't they? Like fungal nail infections. Thing is Michael people blame so much on animals don't we? Whatever we want; its convenient because they can't answer back :(

        • Fungal infections are low level health problems usually but very hard to eliminate and for a cat ringworm is distressing due to itchiness.

  • Certainly very plausible that workers are spreading ringworm.
    I have very rarely seen a shelter worker wearing gloves (and changing them out) or even washing their hands between handling cats.

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