Can You Pet That Patchy Kitty? The Truth About Fungal Infections in Cats


Fungal infections, also known as dermatophytosis or ringworm, are common skin diseases in cats. They are caused by microscopic organisms called dermatophytes, which invade the hair follicles and claw beds of the skin. Dermatophytes feed on keratin, the key protein found in skin, hair, and nails. This can lead to hair loss, redness, and itching in infected cats.

As a cat owner, you may be concerned about the transmission of fungal infections. It’s natural to wonder if it’s safe to touch or interact with your cat if they have a fungal skin infection. Proper precautions are important, but complete avoidance is often unnecessary. With some care and awareness, owners can safely interact with an infected cat while providing treatment and controlling contagion.

Types of Fungal Infections

Some of the most common fungal infections cats can get include:


Ringworm is caused by a fungus called dermatophytes that infects the skin, hair, and claws. It causes circular lesions on the skin that can spread and result in hair loss. Ringworm is very contagious and can spread between cats as well as to humans. It is treated with antifungal medications (source:

Yeast Infections

Yeast infections are caused by Candida albicans fungi overgrowing on the skin and mucous membranes. This results in itchy rashes, skin thickening, and hair loss. Yeast thrives in warm, moist environments. Yeast infections usually indicate an underlying health issue such as an impaired immune system or endocrine disease (source:


Aspergillosis is caused by Aspergillus fungus and often affects a cat’s respiratory tract and sinuses. It can cause symptoms like nasal discharge, sneezing, and difficulty breathing. If untreated, it can progress to a systemic infection. Aspergillosis is treated with antifungal medication and sometimes surgery (source:


Fungal infections can spread between cats and humans through direct contact with an infected cat. According to the CDC, the fungus Sporothrix brasiliensis is the most common cause of sporotrichosis, which is the main fungal infection transmitted from cats to humans. This fungus lives in the soil, plants, and decaying vegetation. Outdoor cats can become infected by rolling around or digging in contaminated environments. The fungal spores enter the skin through scratches or puncture wounds. Cats can also become infected through bites from other infected cats.

Once a cat is infected, the fungus can be spread through scratches, bites, or contact with discharge from skin lesions. Humans are most commonly infected through bite and scratch wounds from infected cats. The fungus can also be transmitted through inhalation of aerosols and splashes onto mucous membranes. Handling an infected cat without gloves or touching contaminated environments are other ways humans can contract the fungal infection. According to the CDC, even intact human skin can become colonized by the fungus through direct contact with exudates from cat lesions.

Sporotrichosis is highly contagious among cats living in groups or multiples. Cats in shelters are especially at risk. Proper precautions need to be taken when handling infected cats to prevent transmission to other cats and humans.

Risks of Touching an Infected Cat

Touching a cat infected with a fungal infection does pose some risks of transmission to humans. Fungal infections like sporotrichosis can be spread from cats to humans even without a scratch or bite. The fungus can be transmitted through direct contact with the infected skin, fur, or respiratory secretions of the cat. Humans with compromised immune systems are at greatest risk of developing fungal infections from infected cats.

There is also a risk of transmission to other household pets if proper precautions are not taken. Cats with ringworm or other fungal skin infections can easily spread spores to humans and animals through shedding and contact. Overall, it’s important to be aware of risks and take proper hygiene precautions when touching or handling a cat with a known fungal infection.


When handling a cat with a fungal skin infection, it’s important to take precautions to avoid spreading the infection.

The CDC recommends wearing disposable gloves when touching or caring for a cat with a fungal skin infection [1]. Gloves should be worn when administering medication, cleaning litter boxes, or bathing the cat. Gloves should be disposed of after each use.

It’s also crucial to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching the infected cat [1]. Scrub hands for at least 20 seconds, being sure to clean under fingernails.

In addition, disinfect any surfaces or objects the infected cat touches using a diluted bleach solution or disinfectant approved to kill fungus [2]. This includes food bowls, bedding, brushes, and litter boxes. Thoroughly clean the cat’s living space.

Taking these precautions can help prevent fungal spores from spreading and infecting other pets or people.

Seeking Treatment

It is important to seek professional veterinary care if you suspect your cat has a fungal infection. While some mild fungal skin infections may resolve on their own, the guidance of a veterinarian is crucial for proper diagnosis and effective treatment, especially for systemic or internal fungal infections.

Your veterinarian will take samples and cultures to identify the specific type of fungus infecting your cat. Once diagnosed, they will prescribe the appropriate antifungal medication to treat the infection. Antifungal drugs commonly used in cats include itraconazole, terbinafine, fluconazole, ketoconazole, and miconazole (VMSG, 2021).

The course of treatment depends on the type and severity of infection. Most cats require several weeks to months of oral antifungal medications to fully resolve the infection. Your vet will outline the treatment plan and schedule follow-up appointments to monitor your cat’s improvement (Merck Veterinary Manual, 2022).

While home remedies may provide some relief, veterinary expertise and care is essential for diagnosing, treating, and curing fungal infections in cats. Do not attempt to self-treat without an accurate diagnosis from your vet.

Caring for an Infected Cat

If your cat has been diagnosed with a fungal infection, there are some important steps you should take to properly care for them and prevent the infection from spreading:

Isolate the infected cat from other household pets. Fungal infections are very contagious between cats, so isolating the sick cat will help protect other pets in the home. Set up the infected cat in a comfortable but separate room away from the other animals.

Clean the litter box frequently. Scoop waste from the litter box twice per day if possible. Every 1-2 days, dump out all of the litter, wash the box with soap and water, rinse thoroughly, and replace with all fresh litter. This helps remove fungal spores from the environment.

Wash bedding regularly. Any blankets, beds, or soft surfaces your infected cat lays on should be washed at least once per week. Use hot water and bleach if recommended by your veterinarian. This further reduces fungal spores in the home.

Follow all additional care instructions from your vet. Medicated baths, topical creams, or oral antifungal medication may be prescribed. Carefully follow your vet’s treatment plan to help resolve the infection.

With diligent care and treatment, most fungal infections in cats can be cured within a few weeks. Check in regularly with your vet and keep up with medications and cleaning to ensure your cat makes a full recovery.


There are several steps cat owners can take to help prevent fungal infections in their pets. One of the most important is to keep cats stress-free, as stress can weaken the immune system and make cats more susceptible to infections. Providing enrichment through toys, vertical space, and quality time can help reduce a cat’s stress levels. Additionally, grooming cats regularly with a stainless steel comb helps keep the fur and skin clean and free of debris where fungus could grow. Using grooming as bonding time can also lower stress. Finally, disinfecting the home environment with pet-safe antimicrobial cleaners reduces overall pathogen load, including fungal spores that cause infection. With diligent prevention methods, cat owners can help protect the health of their furry companions.


With early treatment, the prognosis for most fungal infections in cats is good. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, timely and aggressive antifungal therapy generally leads to a favorable outcome [1]. Fungal infections like ringworm, candidiasis, and aspergillosis can often be completely cured with medications.

However, the prognosis depends on the type and severity of the infection. For example, cryptococcosis may require prolonged treatment for several months before being resolved. In systemic or advanced infections, antifungal therapy may only be able to control the infection, not cure it completely. Still, with aggressive treatment guided by veterinary care, the infection can often be eliminated from the cat’s body and prevented from reoccurring [2].

The key is to identify and treat fungal infections early before they have a chance to spread or damage tissues. With prompt diagnosis and proper antifungal therapy, the prognosis for fungal infections in cats is generally good, with most infections able to be successfully treated and eliminated.


To summarize, it’s important to exercise caution when touching a cat with a fungal infection. While some minor fungal infections like ringworm may not pose a major risk, others like cryptococcus or sporotrichosis can potentially spread to humans. The main types of fungal infections in cats include dermatophytosis, blastomycosis, histoplasmosis, cryptococcosis, and sporotrichosis.

Before touching an infected cat, it’s crucial to take precautions like wearing gloves and washing hands thoroughly. Seek treatment from a veterinarian, as they can diagnose the specific fungal infection and provide appropriate treatment. Follow their instructions on safely interacting with and caring for the infected cat.

While fungal infections in cats can be concerning, the prognosis is often good with prompt treatment and prevention measures. By keeping the cat indoors, maintaining cleanliness, and monitoring for signs of infection, fungal infections can usually be avoided or properly managed. Always consult a veterinarian for guidance on safely touching and caring for a cat with a fungal infection.

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