Staph Infection in Cats: Signs & Symptoms

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Cats are known for hiding illnesses from their owners, so sometimes it can be tricky to determine whether or not there’s an underlying medical problem. Staph infection is one of the most commonly treated skin conditions in cats and can easily be transmitted from animal to animal. Although it’s highly treatable and not something to get too worried about, it’s still important to learn the signs and have it immediately remedied.

What is Staphylococcus?

Like in humans, staphylococcus in cats is an opportunistic infection — the bacteria resides in the skin naturally. If your cat’s immune system is weakened or his skin is extensively irritated, the bacteria will thrive. Due to cats’ unstable immune systems, it’s most common amongst kittens and older cats.

Causes of Staph Infection in Cats

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Skin infections are typically what opens the door for staphylococcus bacteria to spread.

Common causes of skin infections include allergic reactions to fleas, food, airborne pollen and fungal infections. If your cat has an underlying skin condition or allergy, he may excessively scratch the itchy area, which disrupts the skin’s natural resiliency.

When cats are sick, the medication prescribed can sometimes lead to a weakened immune system, allowing staph to flourish into an infection. If your kitty is on medication, be sure to work with your veterinarian to rule it out as a secondary cause.

Signs & Symptoms of Cat Staph Infection

Despite your cat’s ability to hide his medical issues, Staphylococcus almost always presents with these two types of observable signs and symptoms:

Systematic Symptoms – affecting the whole body

  • Fever
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy and loss of interest in regular behaviors
  • Appearance of discomfort or restlessness

Specific – localized symptoms

  • Circular hairless lesions on the skin – these lesions may appear red and inflamed
  • Scabbing lesions and pimples
  • Infections of skin, eyes, ears, and respiratory system
  • Excessive scratching and biting of irritated areas
  • Eye/nasal discharge, coughing, and sneezing

Notes:

  • Do not touch your cat’s lesions or irritated skin as staphylococcus bacteria can spread from animal to human and vice versa.
  • In rare cases, urinary tract infections can be caused by staph. If your cat has recently had a staph infection it’s important to keep an eye out for excessive urination, pain during urination, and blood traces in their urine.
  • Staph infections present very similarly to feline ringworm and it can be hard to tell the difference. Work with your vet to establish a definitive diagnosis. 

Treatments for Staph Infections in Cats

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Antibiotics or antibacterial shampoo are the most commonly prescribed treatments for staphylococcus bacteria. It’s crucial to remember that antibiotics only treat the infected skin area associated with staph, while the underlying cause remains untreated.

When working with your vet to determine the appropriate treatment method, be sure that the underlying cause has been diagnosed and is also being cured, or the infection will recur. For instance, if a skin infection was caused by a flea allergy, you should be treating your cat with antibiotics for the skin infection, and some course of flea medication.

Your cat will typically be prescribed a course of antibiotics lasting six to eight weeks. It’s important to stick to the full regimen in order to prevent the infection from reestablishing itself.

There are two types of occurrences to be aware of when your cat is recovering from staph:

If you’ve tried medication and your cat’s infection is still not clearing up, the staph may be resistant to antibiotics. In this case, your veterinarian will likely provide you with a more long-term specialized treatment plan.

Secondly, if recurrence happens after the infection clears up, it might mean that your cat has a case of staphylococcus hypersensitivity, sometimes called staphylococcus allergy. Unlike a staph infection, staph hypersensitivity requires a more long-term intensive treatment plan. Usually your veterinarian will administer your cat with routine injections of staph bacteria in order to build an immunity. Medicated baths may also be necessary.

Preventing Feline Staph Infection

The best way to prevent staph is by facilitating a strong immune system. This is achieved through a healthy diet, plenty of exercise, and maintaining a clean, sanitary environment for your kitty. Give your furry friend baths when needed, and most importantly, have your cat’s fur checked for fleas every month.

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