Roger Salmon column: Cats run a risk of catching TB on their neighbourhood travels

Roger Salmon
Roger Salmon

A study at the University of Edinburgh found that TB in cats is more common than previously thought and could cause a risk to owners.

Experts estimate that up to 100 out of every 100,000 cats could be infected with TB, with around a fifth of these involving the bacterium found in cattle and badgers.

Vets believe cats could be catching the disease by venturing into badger setts or from rodents that have been in badger setts, or from infected milk.

The study by experts found, that in one year, there were 187 cases of TB in cats, 17per cent of which were the bovine strain.

These findings suggest that these infections are significant cause of disease in cats in Great Britain and that vets are more aware of the presence of TB in cats.

Prof Gunn-Morgan said of all the cases of TB infections in cats, she had seen she had never seen an infection passed on to a human and so believes the risk to be extremely low; most people have been inoculated.

There are a small number of cases where infection has passed from dogs to humans.

The biggest concern is a spillover from cattle and badgers to cats.

Nigel Gibbens, the chief veterinary officer, said that cats seem to be more likely to be infected because of the way they behave.

They roam and do explore and could get into fights with feral cats and badgers. If a cat has an unresolving bite wound or a respiratory problem that will not go away they should talk to their vets.

We do not want to get this out of proportion with a suggestion that cats are spreading TB; if that were the case we would be seeing a greater incidence in cats but there is something here that needs to be looked at.