How to Stay Healthy Around Cats
Before becoming a pet parent, make sure a cat is the right type of pet for your family. Cats that appear clean and healthy can still carry germs that can make people sick.
Healthy cats and their families
Visit your veterinarian for routine care to keep your cat healthy and to prevent infectious diseases.
Wash your hands
• Wash your hands with soap and running water:
- After handling cats, their food and water dishes, or their supplies
- After contact with cat saliva or poop
- After cleaning a litter box
- After gardening, especially if outdoor cats live in the area
- Before you eat or drink
• Adults should supervise hand washing for children under 5 years of age.
• Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available.
• Wear gloves while gardening, particularly if you know that outdoor cats live in the area.
Safely clean up after your cat
Cats can carry many germs in their poop. To stay healthy, take precautions when cleaning a cat’s litter box.
• Clean up after Kitty quickly and as soon as possible after your cat has finished its business.
• Change litter boxes daily if possible. If you use clumping litter every week may be sufficient as long as you clean the litter every day.
• Always wash your hands after cleaning the litter box, even if you use a scoop to remove the poop.
♦ People with weakened immune systems and pregnant women should not clean litter boxes if possible, as they are more at risk for complications from germs spread by cats. If no one else can perform the task, wear disposable gloves and wash your hands afterwards.
• Keep your cat’s litter box away from other animals, children, and food preparation areas.
Prevent cat scratches and bites
Cat bites and scratches can spread germs, even if the wound does not seem deep or serious.
♦ A disease can happen from a cat scratch even if a scratch just breaks the surface of the skin. There is no good record of how many people are bitten or scratched by cats each year because incidents often aren’t reported.
It is known that about 20-80% of reported cat bites and scratches become infected.
How to prevent cat bites and scratches
• Be cautious with unfamiliar animals. Approach cats with care, even if they seem friendly.
• Avoid rough play with cats and kittens. Rough play causes cats to be defensive toward people.
• Avoid rough play when animals are young. This will lead to fewer scratches and bites as animals become older. Studies have shown cats generally bite when provoked.
• Trim your cat’s nails regularly. If you need help, ask your veterinarian.
• Parents should tell children to let them know if they are ever bitten or scratched by any animal, including cats. What to do if you are bitten or scratched by a cat If you are bitten or scratched by a cat, you should:
• Wash wounds with warm soapy water immediately.
• Seek medical attention if:
- You don’t know if the cat has been vaccinated against rabies.
- The cat appears sick.
- The wound is serious.
- The wound becomes red, painful, warm or swollen.
- It has been more than 5 years since your last tetanus shot.
• Report the bite to animal control or your local health department if the bite is unprovoked and
- The cat is a stray, or
- You are unsure if the cat has been vaccinated against rabies.
♦ Because of the risk of rabies, ensure that the cat is seen by a veterinarian and contact your local health department if it becomes sick or dies shortly after the bite.