BECAUSE tularemia is endemic among wild animals, human infections occur primarily among hunters and outdoorsmen. For this reason, physicians sometimes discount tularemia as a cause of fever in patients who deny exposure to rabbits or ticks. Some domestic animals, however, may acquire tularemia during their forays into the wild and may, in turn, transfer the disease to humans. In these instances, tularemia may go unrecognized.
Because of its predatory practices, the domestic cat is well suited to transmit tularemia from wildlife to humans. But this fact has seldom been used to immediate advantage in patient care. We recently cared for a pregnant woman with a febrile illness characterized by a skin lesion and regional lymphadenopathy. When it was learned that she had been bitten by her cat just before the onset of her illness, we confirmed a presumptive diagnosis of tularemia by performing diagnostic tests on the cat.