Are Stray Cats Dangerous To People?

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In general, stray cats are shy and not dangerous if they are left alone. But if you attempt to catch or handle them, or if you come into contact with contaminated areas, there are risks.

A stray cat is a cat that has at one point or another had a home but it has found itself either abandoned or lost. Many people will confuse stray cats with feral cats but they are two different kinds of cats. A feral cat is a cat that was born and raised in the wild and has not had a human owner. It’s learned how to hunt for its own food and other necessities in life. A stray cat on the other hand may even be friendly towards humans. That does not mean that you should go petting one because although it might be friendly, it can still carry diseases. There is also a chance that a stray cat may be afraid of humans because of an experience that it may have had after getting lost or in some cases before being abandoned. Either way, it suggested that you approach a stray cat with care, if at all.

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Stray, or feral cats are usually classified as a pest species due to their habits of occupying public places in high numbers, fighting and spraying. The most common complaints include the following:

  • Stray cats occupying public areas
  • Stray cats around facility dumpsters
  • During mating season, foul musk scent
  • Stray cats fighting or mating loudly
  • People concerned about stray cat population
  • Strays posing a threat to pet cat
For these reasons, many people wish to have stray, or feral, cats trapped and removed.

Here are some other do-it-yourself articles I wrote that might help you:
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how to catch a stray cat
common problems with stray cats

Depending on the amount of time that a cat has been lost, there are some diseases that may be carried due to lack of vaccination. Cats can carry rabies, but the risk of contracting such diseases from a stray cat is very low. You will be able to tell a cat that may be infected by rabies by foaming of the mouth and/or aggressive behavior. If you suspect that a stray cat may have rabies, call your wildlife control department or a wildlife expert. Another disease that may be carried by stray cats is tapeworm, but if the chances of rabies are small, the chances of a human getting tapeworm are almost none. You can guarantee that you will not get tapeworm from a stray cat even if you have handled the cat by simply washing your hands after coming in contact. A more real risk is infection from a scratch from a stray cat, or as you may know it, cat scratch fever.

Handle with Care
Though the dangers of a stray cat to humans are extremely low, you would have good reason to not want them on your property. The best way to keep them away is to not feed them because as many people have reported, if you feed a stray cat once, it will keep coming back for more. Stray cats can also make a mess if you have to leave your garbage outside overnight. If a cat sees an easy meal in your garbage can, then it will gladly go for it. A stray cat may also defecate in your garden which can spread germs. If that happens, all that you have to do is clean up after the cat and you will avoid any possible transmissions. If you feel that a cat could use a home and the cat looks friendly enough, you could call animal control or your local shelter. Sometimes they will pick up a cat and find it a home.

Benefits of stray cats
Fortunately, it’s not all bad news when it comes to stray cats. They help you keep other pests under control. A stray cat will learn how to hunt for a living and that means that if you have a mouse problem, a stray cat can be a blessing in disguise. Another hidden benefit of stray cats is that they may teach your kids compassion. Remember to tell your kids not to handle the cat unless you are certain it is safe. Many people will see the negatives of stray cats and see them as pests instead of pets but keep in mind that some of these cats had homes and were a companion to humans at one point. If handled properly, you may end up discovering that you have a new friend.

When it comes to danger to humans there are some kinds of lice that can pass from the cat to a person, the worms even though it is not common, rabies and infections from bites or scratches. Cats can be quite aggressive so if you decide to approach a stray cat use a good amount of caution. They can also use garden beds as litter boxes which will make contacting worms or toxoplasmosis easy if you like to garden.


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