Updated: Oct 17
The Food Safety Information Council released consumer research showing 31% of cat owners saying they feed their cats raw meat and 12% of cat owners saying they don't always wash their hands after cleaning out their cat's litter tray. Both these behaviours can be a risk of sharing food poisoning bacteria and parasites with your furry friend.
Pets can carry bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi, which can be transmitted to humans, especially young children, through bites, poop, saliva or pet 'dandruff'.
Here are some simple tips about avoiding infections from your pets:
Ensure your pets are fully immunised, dewormed, and have had flea and tick treatments.
Cats and dogs may pass on Salmonella infections if they eat raw meat, so it is best to feed them a balanced diet of commercially prepared food and keep cats inside so they cannot eat wild birds or animals. Cats can also pass on the infective stage of Toxoplasma parasites if fed raw meat. This can be particularly risky for pregnant women and their unborn babies, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems. Avoid cleaning out litter trays if you are pregnant, and empty litter trays daily as the parasites in the cat's faeces don't become infectious until 24 hours after being excreted.
Keep pets out of areas where you prepare food, especially kitchen benchtops. As always, please wash your hands with soap and dry thoroughly before handling food and after handling your pet, their food or toys. Don't let your pets lick or take food from your plate. Don't wash pet food bowls with your dishes; soak them in a separate laundry sink if you have one.
Responsible pet ownership involves picking up poop which can transfer germs to your hands. Always wash your hands after cleaning out cages, fish tanks, sandpits cat litter and after picking up your dog.
Secure and cover children's sandpits when not in use to deter cats from using them as makeshift toilets.
Birds, including your backyard chooks and reptiles, have been linked to Salmonella infections in people. Ensure you and your children wash your hands after handling or cleaning their environment. Always wash your hands after collecting eggs.
Avoid walking without shoes in parks or beaches that dogs or cats could visit, as you may contract parasites from contaminated soil or sand through your skin.
The research about feeding cats raw meat and handwashing after cleaning out litter trays was funded by a donation from SA Health and conducted nationally online over August 24-29, 2023, among a sample of 1238 people aged 18 years and over. To reflect the overall population distribution, results were post-weighted to Australian Bureau of Statistics data (Census 2021) on age, sex, area and highest level of education.