Whereas horizontal transmission of pathogens (germs) is between one cat to another both of whom are are not in a parent to child relationship, vertical transmission is between mother and offspring as a foetus or kitten in utero.
For example, feline parvovirus can be spread vertically if the queen (mother cat) becomes infected whilst pregnant. The infection can cause the birth of mummified kittens, underdevelopment of the cerebellum and poor coordination of the kittens due to cerebellar hypoplasia and abortion.
The feline leukemia virus and FIV can also be transmitted vertically.
An example of a disease being transmitted horizontally is the classic feline flu caused by the feline herpesvirus or feline calicivirus.
Horizontal transmission can be from direct contact between cats such as when a part of a cat meets another cat or when a cat licks another cat or when fighting. Indirect horizontal transmission includes via bedding and feeding bowls (inanimate objects).
Airborne transmission of droplets produced when sneezing or coughing are particularly important in the spread of respiratory diseases. Some organisms can remain ‘alive’ for a long time in the environment especially in dark, damp conditions. Some ‘infectious agents’ need an intermediary for transmission from cat to cat. This applies to the tapeworm in which small rodents are the intermediate host and fleas the vector.
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