A domestic cat has tested positive for Yersinia pestis, the bacterial agent of plague, according to Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH). The cat, from the Evergreen area, is now under the care of a veterinarian.


Dave Volkel, JCPH Environmental Health Specialist said, “Everyone is reminded of the importance of keeping their pets from roaming free and using appropriate flea control products to minimize the risk of plague.”

It is not uncommon for cats to become infected with plague in an environment where plague is circulating.

Plague is a bacterial disease of rodents and is generally transmitted to humans through the bites of infected fleas. It can also be transmitted by direct contact with infected animals, including rodents, wildlife and pets.

Symptoms of plague in humans include sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, and weakness. In most cases there is a painful swelling of the lymph node in the groin, armpit or neck areas. Plague symptoms in cats and dogs are fever, lethargy and loss of appetite. There may be a swelling in the lymph node under the jaw. With prompt diagnosis and appropriate antibiotic treatment, the fatality rate in people and pets can be greatly reduced.

Public Health officials remind citizens to take the following precautions to protect their animals and their families from plague:

  • Do not feed squirrels or other rodents. This brings them onto your property and in close contact with each other increasing the risk of disease transmission.
  • Rodent-proof your houses and outbuildings.
  • Don’t let dogs or cats catch or eat squirrels, rabbits or other wild animals.
  • Do not allow pets to roam freely, and keep them treated for fleas according to a veterinarian’s advice.
  • Be aware of rodent and rabbit populations in your area and report sudden die-offs or multiple dead animals.
  • Contact your physician if you develop a high fever or other plague symptoms following a flea bite or direct contact with dead rodents or rabbits.