Posted: March 27, 2010, 5 a.m. EDT
Q: Can chinchillas and rats get any kind of diseases from cats? We have a cat that is sickly in our garage. I need to know if this cat could make my other pets sick. We are taking him to the vet tomorrow, but my vet knows very little about chinchillas. The cat has run into the house before, but we always put it back outside. The cat has never been in direct contact with our chinchilla or rat, but I am concerned for their safety and health. Right now they appear to be in good health. I have heard that ferrets can get distemper. I don't know yet if this cat has this disease, but I need to know what to do in case it does.
A: It is very, very unlikely that the illness of this cat is anything that your chinchilla or rat can be infected with. Cats and rodents do not normally share viruses or even bacteria. Even the distemper that ferrets can get is canine distemper, not the distemper virus associated with cats.
It is smart that you have separated the cat from the chinchilla and rat for various reasons, but the threat that your cat’s illness poses to your other pets is very, very small.
You do ask if chinchillas and rats get any kind of diseases from cats. It would be almost impossible for this to occur but ectoparasites, if they cannot find their proper host, can infect other animals. So, if the cat brought ectoparasites into the home, it is theoretically possible for your other pets to be infected, but that is not the type of illness you described.
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