Bacteria Infections in Cats

Updated November 21, 2016

Cats are susceptible to a number of bacterial infections that can turn a normally active and healthy feline into a sick pet requiring medical treatment seemingly overnight. While a cat of any age can get a bacterial infection, cats with weakened immunity systems or ones that are either very young or very old are often most at risk.


A common type of a bacterial infection in cats is known as streptococcal infection, an infection that also infects people. While not common, cats are sometimes infected with methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, better known as MRSA. Other bacterial infections can affect a cat's digestive system, such as campylobacteriosis. There are numerous other types of feline bacterial infections that can cause abscesses and ones that may infect the lungs, heart or liver. Haemobartonellosis in cats is a bacterial infection caused by ticks and sometimes fleas.


If you notice that your cat is feverish, coughing, has swollen lymph nodes, has difficulty swallowing, is extremely lethargic or has developed an abscess, it's time to see a veterinarian at once. Other symptoms may include coughing, refusal to eat, vomiting, behaviour indicating pain or arthritis-like symptoms not previously observed.


Antibiotics are usually prescribed if your cat is diagnosed with a bacterial infection. Antibiotics are most commonly administered orally through a syringe, are sometimes given as a shot, and in severe cases, are administred continuously through an IV. Often, a treatment may include hydration and total rest. If you cat is very ill, your veterinarian may recommend that your pet be admitted to an animal hospital or around-the-clock veterinarian clinic so that constant care and fluids can be administered. Your pet will need to avoid other animals during the recovery period to avoid catching any new infection while the immunity system is low. As long as the infection is caught at an early stage and there are no other health issues affecting your pet, your cat will typically make a full recovery.


Your cat's natural tendencies to dig in the dirt, sand or a litter box, eat things you would probably rather not know about and socialise with other animals mean there are ample opportunities to become exposed to a bacterial infection at some point. Depending on the type of bacterial infection, certain illnesses can be passed between pets and people as well, so keep that in mind if you are ill or vice versa. Bacterial infections can also be introduced from exposure through a wound or surgical procedure. Outdoor cats who may have contact with other cats may spread bacterial infections from scratches or bites.


Just as with people with common bacterial infections such as strep throat, recovery can often be quick. As long as the antibiotics prescribed do their job, then your pet will begin feeling better within a few days. As your cat's appetite returns, energy and behavioural patterns will typically return to normal as well. Your cat will need to rest and drink a lot of water and you will need to make sure that your cat finishes all medication prescribed from the veterinarian. Most likely, your vet will schedule a follow-up checkup to make sure the infection is gone before giving your cat a clean bill of health.

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