Tuberculosis in Cats: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment How to Identify and Manage Tuberculosis In Your Feline Friend

Tuberculosis in Cats: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

A prevalent and dangerous health issue for felines is TB, a condition brought on by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. In this article, we go further into this disease and how it can be managed.

Can Cats get Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis, a disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis, is a well-known and serious human health concern. However, many people may not realize that this disease can also affect their furry feline friends. Tuberculosis in cats is a rare but potentially life-threatening condition that can be difficult to diagnose and treat. 

In this article, we will explore the causes, signs, diagnosis, and treatment of tuberculosis in cats, as well as the potential risks to human health.

Causes of Tuberculosis in Cats

Yes, cats can get TB, just like humans. Tuberculosis in cats is caused by the mycobacterium in cats, which is similar to the bacteria that cause tuberculosis in humans. Cats can get this bacterium by coming into contact with sick people, pets, or surroundings. Cats are often infected by swallowing or breathing the bacterium, but transmission can also happen when cats come into touch with infected wounds or when an infected mother passes the disease to her kittens through the womb.

It is a rather uncommon illness in cats, and not all of those who are exposed to the germs will acquire tuberculosis. Some cats might be able to recover on their own, while others might develop into asymptomatic carriers of the bacterium, which means they have the infection but don't exhibit any symptoms of sickness. A cat's likelihood of contracting tuberculosis can be boosted by immune system weakness, starvation, and co-infection with other illnesses.


Tuberculosis in cats can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms can be vague and similar to those of other diseases. In some cases, infected cats may not show any symptoms at all. However, some of the signs of tuberculosis in cats include:

  • Weight and appetite loss

  • Weakness

  • Difficulty when breathing

  • Coughing, especially a chronic and persistent cough

  • High fever and body temperature

  • Swelling of the lymph nodes, especially those in the neck and shoulders

  • Sores on the skin, especially on the head and face


Due to the nonspecific symptoms and potential for misdiagnosis, TB in cats can be difficult to diagnose. The diagnosis procedure will probably start with a complete medical history and physical examination performed by your veterinarian. They might be able to spot respiratory trouble, swollen lymph nodes, and other symptoms of sickness during the examination.

Your veterinarian may suggest a number of diagnostic tests, such as the following, to confirm a tuberculosis diagnosis in cats:

  • Blood tests: These can help your veterinarian assess your cat's general health and identify any changes that might be related to tuberculosis. These tests include a complete blood count (CBC) and a serum biochemistry profile.

  • Imaging tests: A computed tomography (CT) scan or a chest X-ray can assist your veterinarian in examining your cat's respiratory system and finding any anomalies that might be connected to tuberculosis.

  • Biopsy: Your veterinarian may recommend a biopsy of any suspicious tissues to look for the presence of mycobacteria. This is typically done under anesthesia, and a tissue sample will be sent to a laboratory for more testing.

  • Culture and sensitivity testing: Culturing a sample of your cat's tissue or body fluids can help identify the specific type of mycobacteria present and determine the best course of treatment.

Diagnosing tuberculosis in cats can be a lengthy and complex process, and it may require multiple tests and follow-up appointments to determine a definitive diagnosis.


The treatment options for tuberculosis in cats typically include a combination of antibiotics and supportive care. Some of the specific treatment options for tuberculosis in cats may include:

  • Antibiotics: The primary treatment for tuberculosis in cats is a course of antibiotics. Mycobacteria can become resistant to some antibiotics. Thus, therapy may include combining multiple different medications. Therapy may extend for many months or more, and it's crucial to strictly adhere to the recommended treatment schedule.

  • Nutritional support: Cats with tuberculosis may lose weight and experience a loss of appetite, so nutritional support is often necessary to maintain their overall health and strength.

  • Hydration: It's important to ensure that cats with tuberculosis remain well-hydrated, as dehydration can worsen symptoms and lead to other complications.

  • Oxygen therapy: Cats with respiratory distress may require oxygen therapy to aid their breathing.

  • Hospitalization: Cats with severe or advanced disease may occasionally need to be hospitalized in order to get intravenous fluids, antibiotics, and other supportive care procedures.

  • Strict hygiene protocols: Because cats with tuberculosis can pose a potential risk to human health, it's essential to follow strict hygiene protocols and take precautions when handling an infected cat.

Prevention Tips

Preventing tuberculosis in cats can be challenging, but there are several steps that pet owners can take to reduce their cat's risk of infection. Here are some tips for preventing tuberculosis in cats:

  • Keep your cat indoors: Limiting your cat's exposure to other cats and wildlife can help reduce its risk of contracting tuberculosis.

  • Maintain good hygiene: Wash your hands frequently and use proper hygiene practices when handling your cat's food, water, and litter box. If you have a cat with known tuberculosis, use gloves when handling them and take additional precautions to avoid spreading the disease to other cats or humans.

  • Vaccinate your cat: Although there is no vaccination available for cats with TB, protecting your cat against other respiratory illnesses can help build general immunity and lower the risk of subsequent infections.

  • Keep an eye on your cat's health: Frequent checks with the vet can aid in identifying any changes in your cat's health and enable early intervention if required.

  • Practice responsible pet ownership: Proper nutrition, regular exercise, and a clean environment can help support your cat's overall health and reduce its risk of developing infections.

Despite the fact that tuberculosis in cats cannot always be prevented, following these recommendations can help lower the risk of infection and promote your cat's general health and well-being.

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