Bacterial Infection (Campylobacteriosis) in Cats


PetMD Editorial

Published Jan. 12, 2009

Campylobacteriosis in Cats


Campylobacteriosis is not commonly found in cats, but when it does occur, it is most likely to affect kittens younger than six months old. The bacteria which causes the disease can typically be found in the gut (gastrointestinal tract) of most healthy mammals, and will remain harmless for most.


Up to 45 percent of stray cats carry the campylobacter bacteria. The bacterium is shed through the feces, where other animals may come into contact with it, contracting the bacteria into their own bodies. Because of this, humans can also contract the disease if they do not practice proper hygiene after coming into contact with an infected animal.




  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Tenesmus
  • Anorexia
  • Lymphadenitis




There are several known causes, but the most common way that a cat comes into contact with campylobacter bacteria is from kennels, which may allow animals to come into direct contact with contaminated feces. Ingestion of contaminated food or water is another mode of transmission. In addition, younger animals are at a greater risk for contracting the disease because of their underdeveloped immune systems and natural tendency to explore their environments.




A fecal culture is the most common diagnostic procedure. After 48 hours, your veterinarian will examine the culture to look for leukocytes (fecal white blood cells) in the stool, the presence of which is an indication of infection; leukocytes may also be found in your cat's gastrointestinal tract, confirming the presence of campylobacter in the body. complete blood profile will also be conducted, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis.




For mild cases, outpatient treatment is generally recommended. Meanwhile, if your cat has a severe case of campylobacteriosis it will require close monitoring to prevent further complications. Your veterinarian may recommend isolating your cat so that it is not infectious to others, and so that it can recover fully. Administering an oral fluid therapy to treat or prevent dehydration, as well as administration of antibiotics, will be part of the plan for eradicating the infection. In more severe cases, a plasma transfusion may also be necessary.


Living and Management


While your cat is under treatment and recovering, it is important that you keep it hydrated and watch for any signs of a worsening condition. You will also need to revisit your veterinarian for follow-up treatments to ensure that the bacteria have been entirely removed.




Cleaning your cat's living and eating areas, and routinely disinfecting its water and food bowls are good ways to prevent this type of bacterial infection.

Image: Africa Studio via Shutterstock

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