Cats, like any other animal, can be really susceptible to disease and infection, especially when sharing a habitat with other animals and mammals, even humans.
Interspecies infection is common, as recent events have discovered, so cats can suffer infection and disease through human interaction.
In this case, ‘strep throat’ should be defined for referential reasons, as cats can indeed contract streptococcus, but the type of streptococcus we are referring to here is a little different.
What Is ‘Strep Throat’?
‘Strep Throat’ commonly refers to a sore throat that is quite common in humans. It is often diagnosed with pain swallowing, dryness in the throat, red or swollen tonsils, or even swollen lymph nodes on the neck.
It is commonly not related to a cough or runny nose, this is likely a common form of influenza.
Specifically, ‘strep throat’, at least in humans, will almost always be caused by a group of bacteria called A Streptococcus, which is important when analyzing if this occurs in cats or not.
This type of streptococcus is very contagious and is spread very easily either through direct contact with someone's mouth, such as kissing, or through respiratory droplets in the air.
Put simply, strep throat is commonly caused by contact infection from other humans, so it is plausible we could infect a cat.
Can Cats Contract ‘Strep Throat’?
Per our definition in the previous section, strep throat specifically refers to group A Streptococcus. The evidence suggests that cats and dogs cannot contract group A streptococcus, the evidence suggests it is not really a match for their DNA.
However, cats and dogs can both carry other forms of streptococcus which can be transmitted to a human. It’s important to note that the evidence here is often circumstantial and not always written in stone.
For instance, a 2002 report from the American Veterinary Medical Association does suggest that evidence does not support the fact that animals can contract group A streptococcus and give it to humans, or vice versa.
Yet, the case of the Levitis family suggested otherwise and caused researchers to change their tune.
In this case a family essentially passed group A streptococcus between them for a number of months, with the only changing variable being a cat they had adopted.
Scientists concluded that cats, and we assume dogs and other animals, can indeed contract group A streptococcus and in very direct contact they can transmit it to humans.
However the ‘strep throat’ does not cause symptoms in the cat, rather they are a neutral carrier of the bacteria and can potentially pass it to a human through direct contact. The case concluded that their cat was certainly contributing to infections the family were receiving.
So, in summary, cats can contract group A streptococcus but are often symptomless and merely a host for the bacteria. Through direct contact such as kisses your cat can indeed transmit the infection to you too.
Cats can contract other types of streptococcus, that aren’t strep throat, which can also be transmitted to humans.
What Types Of Streptococcus Can Cats Carry?
A cat, or a dog, is more likely to carry a strain of streptococcus called streptococcus canis.
The pathogen was first identified in dogs, hence the name, and is commonly transmitted to humans, from other animals, in the form of bites or other direct contact.
If your cat has strep canis they will suffer from these symptoms: coughing, fevers, tiredness, displaying signs of pain. The symptoms are similar to humans but affect the physiology of cats differently.
In some serious cases cats have been known to develop pneumonia and even arthritis or starvation as a result of enlarged and swollen tonsils.
How To Treat Cats With Strep Canis?
When correctly treated, this type of strep in cats can pass quickly and not cause too many issues, although always pay attention to your pet while they are on medication for any reactions they may have.
If your cat has strep they will most likely provide a round of antibiotics to weed out the infection. It’s likely your vet will also encourage you to motivate your cat to hydrate more than normal as this can really help with the infections.
As the infection can go quickly, a little love and care can go a long way to make them feel better.
IF you are in the winter months it can be good to provide blankets or even a heated bed while they are ill as this can speed their recovery up, as well as keep the dangerous cold temperatures away from an immunocompromised cat, or keep them cool in the heat.
It’s important to note that kittens, which are obviously young, are more susceptible to the symptoms of strep as their immune system won;t be developed enough to combat the bacteria as well.
Equally, senior cats will suffer the same issue. If your cat falls in either of these vulnerable groups try to keep them away from large groups of animals that could infect them.
As you can see there is a biological issue that prevents cats from being able to suffer from group A streptococcus. The latter is what is commonly called ‘strep thraot’ and while common in humans a cat can’t really contract strep throat in the way we expect.
However, studies and certain rare cases show that a cat can be a vessel or host for group A streptococcus bacteria, and pass it onto humans through direct contact while not suffering any symptoms themselves.
The bottom line is that if you have strep throat in your household, be careful about how you come into contact with your cat, there is a chance that respiratory droplets can find their way into your cat's hair, and even into their body, and they can silently transmit this back to you and others.
In the case of strep throat, simply reduce your contact with those in your house where possible.