Can Pets Contract Diseases From Rodents?

If you’re like many people in the United States and around the world, your home is not only populated with humans but also furry family members as well. The most common types of companion animals people share homes with are cats and dogs. You naturally are concerned for the health and welfare of these furry family members. This includes protecting your pets from dangers that might be presented pests that might infest or invade your residence. With this in mind, you may wonder what disease, if any, cats and dogs cat contract from exposure to rodents like mice and rats.

There are six primary types of disease that cats and dogs can catch from exposure to infected rodents. These are:

  • Leptospirosis
  • Rat Bite Fever
  • Tularemia
  • Bubonic Plague
  • Salmonellosis
  • Rabies


Leptospirosis is a disease caused by one or another of two types of bacteria that can infect rodents and be passed to cats and dogs. Leptospirosis is a disease that impacts humans as well. Humans can be infected by bacteria from rodents or cats and dogs.

Cats and dogs can become infected with the bacteria that causes Leptospirosis in a number of different ways. These include:

  • Biting or eating an infected rodent
  • Exposure to rodent urine
  • Exposure to rodent droppings

Humans more often than not become infected with these bacteria via exposure to rodent droppings. Becoming infected by these bacteria through a cat or dog is not particularly common. When Leptospirosis occurs in humans, it oftentimes is referred to as Weil’s Disease.

The symptoms of Leptospirosis in cats and dogs include:

  • Fever
  • Severe thirst
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Vomiting

Rat Bite Fever

Rat Bite Fever is causes by a bacterium called streptobacillus moniliforms. Cats and dogs can be come infected with this bacterium by biting or eating an infected rodent. They can also become infected by eating food or drinking water that has been contaminated by rodent feces or urine.

This bacterium is not known to cause any health issues in cats or dogs. With that said, these pets can become carriers and can pass the bacterium on to humans who, in turn, can become ill as a result of an infection. 


Tularemia is caused by a bacterium known as Francisella tularensis. Cats and dogs contract this disease by biting or eating an infected rodent. In addition, a pet can contract this disease by drinking water contaminated by rodent urine or feces.

Symptoms of Tularemia in cats and dogs are:

  • Fever
  • Refusal to eat
  • Cough
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

In some cases, Tularemia can prove fatal to a cat or dog.

Humans can contract Tularemia from rodents, cats, dogs, ticks, and dear flies.

Bubonic Plague

A bacterium called Yersinia pestis caused the Bubonic Plague. This bacterium is carried by fleas that can infest a rodent’s fur. These fleas can pass from rodents to cats and dogs, who in turn become carriers for Bubonic plague but – like rodents – don’t contract the disease themselves.

What can happen is that a cat or dog carrying fleas infected by the bacterium that causes Bubonic Plague can pass those fleas to their human companions. If that happens, the fleas can bite a human, infect them with the bacterium in question, resulting in Bubonic Plague.

With that said, the odds of this type of transmission of Bubonic Plague is not significant. Moreover, Bubonic Plague is not the miserable death sentence it was in the Middle Ages. It can be successfully treated.


Like their human companions, cats and dogs can catch salmonellosis through contact with rodent droppings that are infected with a group of bacteria collectively referred to as salmonella bacteria. An infected cat or dog potentially can pass salmonella on to a human via its feces.

Symptoms of salmonellosis in a cat or dog include:

  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Shock

Although humans rarely die from salmonella poisoning (oftentimes also known as food poisoning), the fatality rate is a bit more significant among cats and dogs.


Finally, cats and dogs potentially can become infected with rabies if they have contact with rodents infected with the virus that causes this disease. Cats and dogs can become infected with rabies if they are exposed to the saliva of an infected rodent – and if a cat or dog has not been properly vaccinated against the rabies virus. Rabies typically is transferred to an unvaccinated cat or dog through a rodent bite. Because of the widespread use of the rabies vaccine, the incidence of cats and dogs becoming infected with rabies is very low.

Symptoms of rabies in a cat or dog include:

  • Drooling
  • Leg paralysis
  • Extreme reaction to noise
  • Extreme reaction to light
  • Radical change in behavior

If a cat or dog becomes infected with rabies, the animal can infect a human who comes into contact with an infected feline or canine’s saliva.

Protect Your Furry Family Members

The potential risk of exposure to diseases spread by rodents underscores the needs to be as proactive as possible in preventing a rodent infestation in your home. In addition, because a majority of these diseases can be contracted via exposure to rat droppings (and urine), ensuring that these dangerous biohazards are thoroughly eliminated from your residence in the aftermath of a rodent infestation is imperative. The surest way to safely and thoroughly eradicating biohazardous materials associated with rodents, including droppings, is to engage the services of a rodent dropping cleanup professional.