DEAR READERS: I am sure many readers who love cats and wildlife will appreciate the article “The Outdoor Cat: Neighborhood Mascot or Menace?” by New York Times reporter Maria Cramer. She makes it very clear that one of the best solutions is an outdoor cat enclosure, or a “catio,” to help protect wildlife and cats from injuries and cat-to-cat diseases.
But I was surprised at one serious omission in her article: No mention was made of the number of diseases cats can pick up outdoors and bring back into the home if they are allowed to roam free. These are called zoonotic diseases, and cats are more of a public health risk in this way than rats! According to the Merck Veterinary Manual (2010), there are at least 27 known cat-to-human zoonotic diseases. In addition, cats have infected people with influenza virus and COVID-19, and vice-versa. In contrast, a report from Washington State University lists only 12 rodent-to-human zoonotic diseases (see iacuc.wsu.edu/zoonoses-associated-with-rodents-wild).