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Is It Possible to Transmit Ringworm from Cats to Humans?

  • Nobody wants to deal with a fungal infection, especially when it is on your cat. Treating your cat’s ringworm can be a pain, but did you know it can put you at risk if you aren’t careful? That’s right; your cat’s ringworm can be transmitted to you. 

If you come into contact with an infected cat’s lesion, there is a chance that you may catch your cat’s ringworm. In order to stay vigilant and prevent this from happening, you must be aware of exactly what ringworm is, the signs of infections in cats, and how to avoid being infected.

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What Is Ringworm?

Ringworm is a fungal infection of the skin, nails, and hair. The name is based on the appearance of the infection: a round, red ring of inflammation. The name can be a bit misleading for some. Although the name has the word “worm” in it, it is not actually caused by a worm parasite. Likewise, not all infections are ring-like in appearance.

The ringworm fungus is a part of an infectious group known as dermatophytes. While some of these dermatophytes are infectious only to a specific species, the kind that infects cats can also infect humans and dogs.

Ringworm on cat's ear
Image Credit: Ameena Matcha, Shutterstock

Signs that Your Cat Has Ringworm

To avoid becoming infected by your cat, you first need to recognize if your cat has ringworm. There are a few signs you will want to watch out for.

It is important to note that symptoms may be much harder to identify when it comes to long-haired cat breeds. There is even a chance that your long-haired cat will be an asymptomatic carrier, meaning he will not show any signs of infection while he is contagious.

If your cat shows signs, he may experience some fur loss, often in circular patches. This is because the fungi can infect the hair shaft and can cause the hair to fall out easily. Your cat’s fur may also become duller in color.

Lesions may appear on your cat’s skin. These lesions will often be red or gray and may have scaling. You will most likely find these spots on your cat’s head, chest, spine, side body, and front legs. They may not be itchy initially, but they can become irritated if scaling or an infection develops.

In more severe cases, ringworm may cause your cat’s skin to develop a raised nodular quality. Lesions like this may ooze. If you notice any of these troubling signs in your cat, do not hesitate to speak with your veterinarian.

How Do Cats Catch Ringworm?

It is not difficult for your cat to catch ringworm. If he comes into contact with an infected cat, that is all that is needed. If you have a household with multiple cats, the infection will be even easier to spread. Ringworm can spread through the infected dander and hair follicles that your cat sheds. Any direct contact with ringworm spores can cause an infection, these spores can survive on surfaces and soil for up to 18 months.

If your cats are indoor cats that do not interact with animals outside of your household, it is easier to prevent infection. But if your cats are free to roam outdoors and interact with any animals they see, you will have significantly less control over what your cat may bring with him when he walks through the door.

Close up of a rash on the skin of the cat's ears
Image Credit: Yaya Photos, Shutterstock

Who Is at a Higher Risk of Catching Ringworm from a Cat?

Ringworm can travel fairly easily from cats to humans, although some people are at a slightly higher risk of infection. People with weaker immune systems are at a particular disadvantage. This includes children, the elderly, and those undergoing chemotherapy or transfusions. If your cat has ringworm and anyone in your house is at high risk, it is best to keep them separate until the situation is sorted out.

Ringworm zoonisis
Image Credit: Ternavskaia Olga Alibec, Shutterstock

How to Handle a Cat with Ringworm

Treating a cat with ringworm can expose you to infection if you are not careful. Wear gloves and an apron when treating your cat, then wash your hands and body.

Infected pets should be separated from other pets to avoid infection and further spread of the spores in the environment. You should clean and disinfect the environment to get rid of any shed spores and avoid recontamination and reinfections. In some cases, other pets in the house should also be treated, consult your veterinarian for advice. Since cats can pass their infection to humans, dogs, and other cats, no one can be considered safe from the infection, even if they do not show signs yet.

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Ringworm is a fungus that can be transmitted between pets and humans. But thankfully, effective treatments are available. Since the infection is transmitted through direct contact with the spores environmental disinfection is very important for its eradication. If you live in a multiple-pet household, make sure to separate infected pets. Consult your veterinarian about any needed treatments for your other pets. If you act promptly yet cautiously, you can prevent ringworm from spreading from your cat to the rest of your family.

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Featured Image Credit: Yaya Photos, Shutterstock