Black Plague Strikes & Stray Cats Are Taking the Fall

Forget the "zombie apocalypse" there's a new cat-astrophe in town. The black plague! And it's caused by stray cats! Okay, calm down, everyone. Do not, I repeat, do NOT panic. Yes, it's true, a man in Oregon did indeed contract bubonic plague. Yes, that's same infection that killed off up to 60 percent of Europe's population waaaay back in the day. It was called the "black plague" or "black death" because victims would have blackish, rotted skin around their mouth, face and hands. Eww. And, yes, the gosh-darned thing is still around. But here's the good news ...


The plague is now so rare it only effects between 10 and 15 people a year in the U.S. And rarely does it kill anyone. Only four people have died from the plague since 1934. You have a better chance of being struck by lightning. You have a better chance of dying from inhaling oxygen, okay?

The plague is spread by rodents and fleas, not CATS. But, in the case of the man in Oregon, he apparently -- for some odd reason -- decided to take a mouse out of the mouth of a stray cat. And the cat bit him. Supposedly. Other reports say the mouse bit him. Either way, it's probably not a good idea to try and take a stray cat's dinner out of its mouth.

I've been involved in stray cat rescue for many years -- stray cats do not just randomly bite people. I don't know if the cat had the plague (it's been sent for testing) but if it did, maybe that is what caused it to bite. I'm just saying, don't panic over stray cats. If you're worried about strays in your neighborhood, get them spayed and neutered.

In 2002, a couple came to New York from Sante Fe, where they had unknowingly contracted the plague. They were hospitalized in Manhattan, but they later made a full recovery, except that the man's feet had to be amputated. There were no stray cats involved.

Anyway, the "black death" sounds horrible, but it's no longer certain death. Let's hope this man makes a recovery. And let's not get all "black plague stray cat apocalypse" about it.

Are you worried about the black plague?


Image via Patrick Hoesley/Flickr

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