Staph Infection in Cats

Staph is short for Staphylococcus, a kind of bacteria that infects the skin of mammals. All cats have it, but it is called a staph infection when it starts acting up and causing problems for the cat in the skin and hair follicles.

What are the symptoms of feline staph infections?

Staph will cause lesions on the skin of the cat that is infected. It is very difficult for a layperson to distinguish staph from feline ringworm in many cases, because the lesions often look identical - red circles with little bald spots of no fur in the middle. Sometimes you will just see red, irritated areas that have scabbing or pimples near them. The cat will be very itchy and will be scratching at the affected areas.

   

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What causes the infection?

The staph bacteria is what is called an opportunistic infection - it exists in the body of the cat normally, without doing anything to it. It only causes problems when there is something else going on that either weakens the cat's immune system or irritates the skin. The most common cause is probably an allergic reaction to fleas - but there are feline allergies to a variety of things that can cause allergic reactions in the cat's skin. These skin allergies degrade the condition of the skin and make it vulnerable to the staph that already inhabits it. This could be caused by chemicals, pollen, food, or any number of other things.

What is the treatment?

Usually your vet will give the cat an antibiotic to help it fight off the infection. You will also need to figure out what the underlying cause of the infection was and identify any allergies your cat has. Sometimes it is also helpful to use an ointment or shampoo designed to deal with staph, which can help the cat's skin heal.

Can I get staph from my cat?

You already have staph - it lives in the skin of all cats and humans. You won't start showing symptoms like your cat because the symptoms only happen when there is a skin problem or immune problem of some sort - and you can't catch an allergy from your cat.

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