Cats and TB

Do cats get TB?

The simple answer is yes. There was a letter to the local paper that raised this issue recently( 2nd Nov 2012) and we felt we should investigate further and get some clear information to dispel some of the possible concerns. This is a contentious issue particularly in our very rural area.

We contacted our national veterinary department and they provided the following statement.

The prevalence of all forms of tuberculosis in cats is extremely low, and as a charity that has limited resources, Cats Protection concentrates its efforts in education and research into the more prevalent infections affecting a much greater number of cats. The number of positive tuberculosis samples in cats that were received by the Veterinary Laboratory Agency between 2005 and 2007 was 337. Given that there are 9 million cats in the UK, this is an exceptionally tiny number. In addition, the potential risk of cats passing tuberculosis on to humans is very small and there have been no confirmed cases of this happening. However, it cannot be ruled out and particular care should be taken if tuberculosis is suspected in a cat and the owner is immune-suppressed.

The most common form of tuberculosis in cats in the UK is caught from voles and other small rodents when hunting. However this is still very rare. It is extremely rare for cats to contract the bovine form of tuberculosis from badgers, because cats need to come into close contact with another animal to become infected, and cats and badgers rarely interact. The most common way that cats can contract bovine tuberculosis is through drinking unpasteurised milk so, although feeding milk to cats is not recommended, we would always urge cat owners to ensure that their pets only drink milk that is pasteurised.

If you suspect that your cat may have tuberculosis then please contact your local vet.

A useful resource that goes into much more detail than we have provided here can be found on the fabcats website.