Edited and Republished December 2009A reader asks:
I have a 9 month old cat So far she seems pretty healthy and up to date on her vaccinations. But my question is (and I haven't seen it addressed anywhere), right now I'm sick with a cold As other humans can, are cats able to catch colds/the flu from humans too? I wouldn't want this to cause any problems for her. If you could answer this I'd appreciate it. Thanks!
Ordinarily, the definition of zoonotic diseases are those which can be transmitted from animals to humans, and not the other way around. Historically, there have been very few exceptions. Two that come to mind are ringworm and conjunctivitis (commonly called "pinkeye.")
In 2009, however, a notable exception has been added: the H1N1 virus, sometimes called the "2009 Swine Flu" virus. To date, there have been approximately 10 documented cases of domestic cats with H1N1, and up to four cases (one tested positive) of H1N1 in Cheetahs in a Southern California private zoo. All of these cases are believed to having been transmitted by human family members (the Cheetahs by the zookeeper.) You can read more with my Q&A article on H1N1 and Cats.
Should you get H1N1, the best precautions against spreading it to other humans or cats are:
- Stay in bed during the early days of the flu, and keep the cats out of the bedroom. You should not have direct contact with your cats until 24 hours after your temperature has returned to normal.
- Cough or sneeze into a tissue, then fold the tissue and discard it in a trash container.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water immediately after coughing or sneezing, and before preparing food for your family, including your cats.
- Watch for symptoms of H1N1 in your cats and take them to the veterinarian at the first sign of symptoms.