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  • Writer's pictureJessica Kaplan

Cats, Fleas and the Bubonic Plague: How to Stay Calm and Protect Yourself

This past February, people across the U.S. were alarmed when a resident of Deschutes County, Oregon was diagnosed with a case of the Bubonic plague. The source? A lonely flea and one pet cat. While the patient survived, the cat did not. 


It’s a scary piece of news (especially for cat owners) and while the risk is extremely low, cases of Bubonic plague do occur in cats and can be transmitted to humans. Most cases have been diagnosed out West among outdoor cats who likely become infected while hunting rodents.


What is The Plague and How Does it Spread?

Most famous for killing off 30-50% of the population in parts of Europe back in the 14th Century, the Bubonic plague is caused by the Yersinia pestis bacteria, which circulates in wild rodent populations. Fleas that feed on infected rodents can spread the disease to other animals, including humans. The disease comes in several forms, including bubonic plague, septicemic plague, and pneumonic plague, each with its own set of symptoms and severity. While it has not had a resurgence like the one seen in the Middle Ages, there are 200-700 cases reported each year.


How to Protect Yourself and Your Pets from the Plague

First of all, don’t panic. The chances of getting the plague are highly unlikely. If you do live in an area where it is endemic and own a housepet, you can take extra precautions. Remember that the most common source of infection is from rodent to flea to cat or dog to human. Breaking this chain of infection is key to protecting yourself and your pet.


flea transmission cycle

Here are some tips to preventing the spread of the plague:


  1. Keep your pets indoors: If you live in an area where the plague is common or has been identified, consider keeping your pets indoors to reduce their exposure to infected rodents.

  2. Use flea control products: Regularly treat your pets with flea control products to prevent them from getting infected fleas. If your pet does have fleas, you want to treat both your pet and items they have been exposed to such as bedding, upholstery, and furniture. Sterifab is a great choice of insecticide because it is nonresidual and EPA approved. Just don’t spray it on food or directly on your pet! 

  3. Prevent contact with rodents: Avoid handling rodents, particularly dead or sick ones, as they are among the most common carriers of the plague bacterium.

  4. Maintain a clean environment: Keep your home and yard clean to reduce the presence of rodents and fleas.


What to Do If Your Cat or Dog Has Fleas

Because fleas are the #1 culprit when it comes to spreading the plague, you want to do everything you can to prevent your cat or dog from ingesting or getting bitten by fleas. If you suspect (or know!) that your pet has fleas, it's essential to take action promptly. 


When it comes to treating your dog or cat, you want to use a safe and effective product. We recommend contacting your vet about the best product to use. 


Treat Your Home for Fleas 

You also should treat your yard and home in order to eliminate fleas from the environs and prevent reinfestation. Sterifab spray is a versatile option for inside the home because it can be used on almost every surface. Spray couches, curtains, mattresses, carpets and more. EPA-approved, fast drying, and nonresidual, it’s a great option particularly for families with pets or children. You can order a bottle here and try it out. 



Sterifab product bottles

Want to learn more? Read all about how to get rid of fleas


While the risk of contracting the plague from your cat or dog is minimal, it's essential to take precautions, especially if you live in a plague-prone area. By following these tips, you can protect yourself and your pets from the potential risks associated with the plague. Remember, prevention is key when it comes to protecting yourself and your loved ones from infectious diseases like the plague.

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