It’s completely normal for us to want to hug, kiss and smoosh our faces into our furkids’ fur. Some even say sniffing their furkid gives them an instant sense of calm and relief. Maybe it’s just how fluffy and cuddle they feel, or perhaps it’s just a long and stressful day at work that conditions us to hug and kiss our cats at the end of a long day.
But is it really the safest way for us to express our love and adoration towards our lovable feline kids?
How Clean Is Clean?
“On just an overall level of cleanliness, [kissing your pet’s mouth is] not good,” said Omai Garner, Ph.D., assistant clinical professor of pathology and laboratory medicine and associate director of clinical microbiology in the UCLA Health System, in an interview here.
While your cat may be an indoor cat, chances are they’ve used their mouths for an assortment of less-than-sterile activities like licking residual poop from their butts, lapping up a curious spill on the floor and snacking on that rogue cockroach.
“But cats lick themselves clean, so they’re clean, right?”
Imagine all that germs from their mouth now smeared all over their body. Yeah, maybe not exactly clean.
What’s The Concern?
One word: Zoonoses; aka Zoonotic diseases. It’s where humans are infected by diseases spread by animals via direct contact, indirect contact, vector-borne, foodborne or waterborne.
Most of the time it’s our skin that comes in contact with our pet and so the germs found on our pets are unlikely to cause any problems this way. The problem arises when these germs find their way to our mouth, nose and eyes; orifices with a permeable mucous membrane which is vulnerable to our bodies absorbing said germs.
For example, your cat had just visited their litter box and licked themselves clean. You then proceed to pick it up and smoosh your face into their fur. After they squirm you let them go and nonchalantly pop a snack into your mouth or rub your eyes.
This way, anyone can get sick from a zoonotic disease but the ones that are more prone to it would be:
- Children younger than 5
- Adults older than 65
- People with weakened immune systems
- Pregnant women
There is some concern among human and veterinary dentists that kissing one’s pet could transmit and cause gum disease. However, there’s currently no scientific evidence to support said hypothesis.
To Kiss Or Not To Kiss?
Generally speaking, if you’re unwell, pregnant or have a weakened immune system, it’s best to lay off the kitty smooches for now. Plus, only do it if you’re certain that your cat isn’t sick, hasn’t been frolicking in unsanitary places, and wouldn’t attempt to scratch your face out.
Hence while it’s unlikely that you’ll catch worms and bacterial infections from kissing your cat, you could minimise the risk by:
- Washing your hands properly after handling your cat
- Keeping vaccinations up to date and check for fleas and parasites
- Keeping your cat off surfaces where you place and handle food
- Avoiding kissing your cat on their lips