by Nomi Berger
While most cat owners admit to kissing their cats, some wonder whether or not this passionate practice is, in fact, purr-fectly safe.
In the opinion of many vets and animal behaviorists, if your immune system is healthy and kitty is disease and parasite free, then the occasional pussycat peck shouldn’t harm you (there is, however, always a slight risk). That said, it’s never wise to either kiss a sick cat or kiss a healthy one on the mouth.
Various diseases can be transmitted from felines to humans, and both can become infected by such common bacteria as Pasteurella, staphylococcus, E. coli, and salmonella — all of them highly contagious. Ringworm, a common fungal infection, can also spread easily from cats to cat owners and vice versa through direct contact. While not serious, it’s very frustrating to treat, and it can also be passed on to other people and pets.
Some research suggests that, like people, cats’ mouths contain certain bacteria that cause gum disease. Not only can gum disease lead to tooth loss, but it can negatively impact many of their internal organs.
A brief buss or a series of swift smooches on the top of your puss’s HEAD is the safest option, is just as enjoyable – both for you and your best furry friend — and carries less risk for the transmission of disease. Fortuitously, felines have scent glands in their cheeks and lips which secrete “feel good” pheromones when they rub up against an object, be it a couch or a counter, the leg of a chair or the leg of a person. And so, KITTY’S version of a kiss — rubbing her head and face back and forth against YOU — is her way of transferring her scent markers to your skin, thereby claiming you as “hers.”
Always exercise caution when putting your face close to an unfamiliar cat or one who is clearly agitated. The most prudent pet parents will plant kisses only on their own cats, only on their heads, and only when they’re calm and relaxed. They will also ensure that their pets are treated regularly for parasites such as worms and fleas, and are kept up to date on their vaccinations.
One final word of caution: those with lowered immune systems, primary or secondary immunodeficiency disorders, pregnant women, and very young children should never kiss cats.