A health expert has issued a warning after an 80-year-old woman died when her pet cat licked an open wound – causing an infection which ultimately led to her death.
The elderly woman died in Melbourne’s Box Hill Hospital after falling into a coma for over a week, with doctors diagnosing her with bacterial meningitis.
The woman was found unresponsive in her bed by her family in May as the cat, named Minty, slept alongside her.
She spent nine days in a coma before regaining consciousness for “beautiful” time with her family before she died one day after being taken off life support.
Lindsay Grayson, director of infectious diseases at Melbourne’s Austin Health, told the Herald Sun people should not let cats lick open wounds and those with compromised immune systems should avoid cats altogether.
She added at least one person a week is dying because of the unknown dangers of cat saliva.
“It is a big deal and it is emerging more and more now as an unrecognised cause of heart valve infection, which is obviously fatal if untreated,” Grayson said.
“Infections related to cat bites and scratches like this person, we’d get at least one a week where somebody comes into the hospital.
“It is very important that if a cat is biting or scratching you, you mention it to your GP.”
The woman’s daughter spoke out to warn other of the danger and admitted that she has struggled with the cat since her mother’s death.
She said: “Obviously through the night it has licked the wound and it was the saliva going into her bloodstream that has caused the damage.
“I was in shock for a good couple of weeks. I’ve tried not to hate the cat but then I was sitting with it trying to be nice and it lashed out at me as well for no reason.”