Is My Cat Giving Me Pseudomonas? How Felines Spread This Sneaky Infection

What is Pseudomonas?

Pseudomonas is a genus of common gram-negative bacteria that can cause infections in humans and animals. There are over 100 known species of Pseudomonas, many of which are found widely in soil and water. Some of the most medically concerning strains that can infect humans include Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Pseudomonas fluorescens, and Pseudomonas pseudomallei.

P. aeruginosa is an opportunistic pathogen that can cause serious acute and chronic infections, particularly in immunocompromised individuals. It is a major cause of hospital-acquired infections such as pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and bacteremia. P. fluorescens rarely causes illness in humans but can infect immunocompromised patients. P. pseudomallei causes the tropical infection melioidosis and is endemic in parts of the world like Thailand and northern Australia.

Is Pseudomonas Contagious?

Yes, Pseudomonas bacteria can be contagious and spread from person to person or animal to person. According to the Endosan article Pseudomonas Aeruginosa – Causes, Symptoms, Transmission and Infection Prevention, “Pseudomonas is contagious. Transmission is possible through contact with contaminated surfaces or equipment, especially in healthcare settings.” Pseudomonas spreads easily through water, soil, and moist environments. Proper disinfection and hygiene practices are important to prevent transmission.

The Oxylpro article Is Pseudomonas Contagious? also states that “Pseudomonas refers to a group of bacteria that can cause lung infections in people. Unlike Legionnaires’ disease, Pseudomonas aeruginosa can spread from person to person.” Contact with contaminated water or medical equipment are common ways Pseudomonas spreads in hospitals and other facilities.

Can Cats Carry Pseudomonas?

Yes, cats can carry Pseudomonas bacteria, specifically the Pseudomonas aeruginosa species. Pseudomonas is commonly found in a cat’s saliva and feces. According to a study published in Veterinary Microbiology, Pseudomonas aeruginosa was isolated in 5.4% of healthy cats tested [1]. Another study found P. aeruginosa in 18.6% of cats with chronic nasal discharge [2]. So while Pseudomonas is relatively uncommon in healthy cats, it is more prevalent in cats with certain medical conditions.

Pseudomonas bacteria can live in a cat’s intestinal tract and be shed in the feces. The bacteria can also colonize the mouth and be present in saliva. Therefore, cats can potentially spread Pseudomonas to humans through bites, scratches, or contact with saliva or feces.

Diseases Caused by Pseudomonas in Cats

Pseudomonas bacteria can cause a variety of diseases in cats, including:

Skin Infections

Pseudomonas often infects wounds or damaged skin, causing symptoms like redness, swelling, discharge, and pain. Common skin infections include hot spots, abscesses, and infected claw beds. Pseudomonas thrives in moist environments, so skin folds, ears, and paws are frequent sites of infection [1].

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

Pseudomonas UTIs cause symptoms like frequent urination, straining to urinate, bloody urine, and crying while urinating. The bacteria can infect the bladder, urethra, and sometimes even the kidneys [2].

Pneumonia

Inhalation of Pseudomonas bacteria can lead to pneumonia, especially in cats with compromised immune systems. Symptoms include coughing, breathing difficulties, lethargy, and fever. The lungs become inflamed and can fill with fluid or pus [3].

Can Humans Get Sick From Cats With Pseudomonas?

Yes, humans can become infected with Pseudomonas from cats. Pseudomonas bacteria can be transmitted from cats to humans through bites, scratches, or close contact with a carrier animal (source). When a cat’s skin, mouth, or paws come into contact with an open wound, cut, or scratch on a person, the bacteria can be transferred.

Immunocompromised individuals, such as the elderly, very young children, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems, are at higher risk for developing an infection. Pseudomonas can more easily establish itself in people with vulnerabilities. Healthy individuals may be able to fight off the infection more readily.

Some of the symptoms humans can develop from Pseudomonas contracted from cats include skin lesions, respiratory infections, eye infections, and sepsis in severe cases. Proper wound care and avoiding contact with carrier cats is important, especially for high-risk groups.

Pseudomonas Infections in Humans

Pseudomonas bacteria can cause a variety of illnesses and infections in humans. Some of the most common include:

  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Respiratory infections like pneumonia
  • Blood infections (septicemia)
  • Soft tissue infections
  • Bone and joint infections (osteomyelitis)
  • Gastrointestinal infections
  • Dermatitis
  • Eye infections like keratitis

Symptoms vary depending on the location of the infection but can include: fever, chills, fatigue, cough, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, skin rashes, joint pain, urinary symptoms like burning during urination, and eye redness, pain, blurred vision. Pseudomonas infections can be serious and life-threatening, especially in those with weakened immune systems. Risk factors for Pseudomonas include hospitalization, antibiotic use, invasive medical procedures, and pre-existing conditions like cystic fibrosis, cancer, and burns. Preventative measures like hand washing, disinfecting surfaces, and avoiding contact with infected individuals can reduce risk of transmission (Source).

Protecting Yourself From Pseudomonas

There are some simple precautions you can take to protect yourself from Pseudomonas infection from cats:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after petting cats, cleaning litter boxes, or touching cat waste. This helps remove any Pseudomonas bacteria that may be present. Studies show good hand hygiene can reduce transmission of Pseudomonas.
  • Clean litter boxes frequently, at least once a day. The bacteria can multiply quickly in cat feces so frequent scooping and litter changes reduces bacteria buildup. Wear gloves while cleaning litter boxes.
  • Keep cats indoors and do not allow them to hunt outdoors. This reduces their exposure to Pseudomonas in the environment.
  • Avoid handling stray or feral cats, especially any that appear ill. Their health status is unknown so extra precaution should be taken.
  • Do not let cats lick open wounds or mucous membranes. Cat saliva can potentially transmit Pseudomonas.
  • Clean and disinfect any surfaces a sick cat has had contact with. Use a diluted bleach solution or EPA-registered disinfectant.

By practicing good hygiene around cats and keeping the litter box clean, you can greatly reduce the chances of contracting a Pseudomonas infection from your feline companion.

Treating Pseudomonas Infections

Pseudomonas infections are typically treated with antibiotics like aminoglycosides (gentamicin, tobramycin), fluoroquinolones (ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin), and cephalosporins (ceftazidime, cefepime) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9952410/. Antibiotic choice depends on the site of infection and antibiotic susceptibility testing. Combination antibiotic therapy is sometimes used for serious infections. It’s important to complete the full antibiotic course as prescribed, even if symptoms improve. Not finishing antibiotics can lead to recurrent infection and antibiotic resistance.

Newer antibiotics and antibiotic delivery methods are being developed to improve treatment of drug-resistant Pseudomonas infections, like gentamicin-loaded nanoparticles https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22915848/. But preventing infections through good hygiene and wound care remains key.

When to See a Doctor

It’s recommended to see a doctor if symptoms of a Pseudomonas infection persist or worsen. Pseudomonas infections can become serious if left untreated. Seek medical care for symptoms like:

  • Fever over 101°F (38.3°C)
  • Increasing redness, swelling, pain, warmth around a wound
  • New red streaks extending from a wound
  • Coughing up mucus or blood
  • Shortness of breath or worsening respiratory symptoms
  • Severe diarrhea or dehydration

Certain high-risk groups should seek medical evaluation promptly if Pseudomonas symptoms occur, including:

  • People with weakened immune systems, such as from HIV/AIDS, cancer treatment, steroid medications
  • Patients with chronic lung diseases, like cystic fibrosis or COPD
  • Burn victims
  • Very young children and the elderly
  • Anyone with an indwelling catheter or medical device implant

Early diagnosis and treatment is key to preventing potentially dangerous complications of a Pseudomonas infection.

The Bottom Line

While cats can carry Pseudomonas bacteria, the risk of humans contracting an infection from cats is very low. Pseudomonas rarely causes illness in healthy cats, and is usually only a concern for immunocompromised humans. That said, there are some precautions cat owners can take:

  • Practice good hygiene like washing hands after touching cats.
  • Clean and disinfect cat toys, bowls, litter boxes, etc. regularly.
  • Watch for signs of infection in cats like lethargy, loss of appetite, or nasal discharge.
  • See a vet if your cat appears ill to get proper treatment.
  • See a doctor if you develop flu-like symptoms that persist after contact with a cat.

While Pseudomonas is not a major risk for healthy humans and cats, proper precautions can help reduce transmission. Overall, the benefits of cat ownership far outweigh the very minor risk of Pseudomonas infection.

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