There is a perception among some people that stray cats are diseased and can transmit infections to people. I’m reminded of this by a woman in Hong Kong, Icy Song, who runs into stray cats on her way to Lingnan University. She comments as follows:
Although I feel pity for the stray cats, I will not get close to them considering the bacteria carried by them.
She thinks that stray cats are covered in bacteria and therefore are infectious to people. It prompted me to have a quick look at the difference between people and cats with regard to the bacteria on their skin. We should look inside the animal as well. And I’m including the human-animal.
Both cats and humans have bacteria in their mouths. For example, a domestic (and stray/feral) cat’s mouth contains the bacteria Pasteurella multocida which can cause infections in people. And we know how cat bites can (rarely) cause a nasty infection which must be treated with antibiotics quickly. But humans have bacteria in their mouths as well. People are concerned about cats transmitting bacteria from their mouths when they are bitten but human bite wounds also carry a risk of infection. The wounds from a human bite carry high levels of bacteria. The human mouth contains about 500 to 1000 different types of bacteria. An infection can lead to a joint infection. It is said that one third of all hand infections are caused by human bite wounds. The point I’m making is that humans should be aware of the fact that they have bacteria in their mouths as is the case for cats.
What types of bacteria are found on the human body? There is a plethora of bacterium species living on the human body (and inside it). The human body contains trillions of micro-organisms. Kenneth Todar, PhD, on his website says that the surface tissues of humans become “readily colonised by various microbial species”. The most common and numerous species are various types of bacteria. He provides a long list of bacteria commonly found on the surfaces of the human body. The top seven are listed below but this is just a sample.
- Staphylococcus aureus
- Streptococcus mitis
- Streptococcus salivarius
- Streptococcus mutans
- Enterococcus faecalis
- Streptococcus pneumoniae
The bacteria inhabiting the skin of a healthy cat are also numerous. As a study published in 2017 on the Plos One website states, “The skin is inhabited by a multitude of microorganisms. This study reveals that there are more bacterial species inhabiting the skin of cats than previously thought..”
The point being made here is that cats have skin microbiota, as the scientists call it, just like people. And yes, sometimes cats have parasites on the skin like other animals. And cats can have fungal infections on the skin just like people. We are not much different from cats are we?
The point being made
I don’t want to go on about it in detail because it’s very complicated and I don’t need to do that to make the point which is that when people regard stray cats as disease-ridden creatures which can transmit disease to them they should remind themselves of two things, currently, (1) humans are also infested both internally and externally with minute organisms including a wide range of species of bacteria and (2) humans spread disease to other humans more so than cats spread disease to humans as is currently being evidenced by the Covid-19 crisis. Nearly all animal diseases are not transmissible to people because they are not zoonotic.
Be gentle with stray animals. They shouldn’t be there. It’s our fault. They were put there by people. Respect them and help them but don’t be frightened of them as if they are some disease spreading creature.