The pure joy of owning a pet is truly special. But that love can also be quietly deadly.  

A caveat: I love all animals: dogs, cats, even fish and birds. But beware: each one can do you in. Oh not deliberately, but as carriers of other diseases.

Let me introduce you to some of the plagues I’ve endured over the last few decades:

Kitty. (He had several names but the default was Kitty.) He was allowed to go out all night. And like most cats, he hunted. We didn’t know anything at all about toxoplasmosis or any other diseases carried by cats.

In fact, a mouse that has toxoplasmosis is manipulated by the parasite to no longer be afraid of cats. So what happens? You got it. The cat eats the mouse and gets the parasite.  

Well, Kitty bit the heck out of my hand once (to avoid his pet carrier). That bite became infected and I almost lost my hand from the infection.

Rachmaninow Racoon.  Alias “Rocky” was a cat who gave me millions of fleas in my basement. I had to resort to a bug bomb, toxic for the home and for us.

Rats. I had rats in my kitchen in Greenwich CT that came in from the stream (so they weren’t really pets per se!). Nonetheless, rats carry diseases. Though fortunately we haven’t had any rat-based plagues in a while.

Lady and Amy were two shelties, mother and daughter. I got worms from Lady even though she was dewormed regularly. What an unpleasant surprise. I implemented a family worm treatment and was fine…

…that’s until Amy gave me ticks.

She had them on her fur and would jump into my bed occasionally. All I could think about was Lymes disease and all the smaller parasites Borreliose carries. A total freak out.

Birds. Our lovely feathered friends can be such a joy to watch but I must warn you: they can carry bacteria and fungal infections from their droppings as well as chlamydia, histoplasmosis and even a form of tuberculosis.

Here’s my example to drive home the point: It all started when I set up a bird feeder on my balcony so I could enjoy all the local little birds, a woodpecker or two. 

For 7 years I had no problem, just sweet little birds delightfully entertaining. But no one told me some of them came with mites. Even worse, Red Bird Mites. (They are generally seen in warmer climates but climate change can cause the mites to spread to new locations, even to a cooler climate like mine.)  

Yes dear friends, Red Bird Mites. And while they don’t usually bother humans, they had a field day in my home. They invaded my apartment, drawers, walls, ceilings, floors, clothes, books, computer, my bed, my nose, sinuses, ears, scalp and skin. Not fun. 

Even horses can pass on diseases, but fortunately not often. Glanders, anthrax, brucellosis, rabies and leptospirosis are not frequent but transmittable to humans.Yikes!  

So love your animals but be cautious. They can be the greatest support and joy, but never underestimate the fact that even your best friends can make you sick.