The New York Times reports:
House cats are a growing source of human plague in the Southwest, Federal health officials warned today.
Before 1977, domestic cats were not known to transmit bubonic or other human plagues, but since then they have been identified as carriers in at least 15 cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
Cats pick up the disease from infected fleas or rodents and pass it on when they bite, scratch or lick humans. Even the breath of an infected cat, if it has mouth lesions, can transmit the plague bacteria. About half of infected cats die, but the disease is now rarely fatal in people.
The increase in transmission to humans is related to the suburbanization of the Southwest, where the plague is commonly found, said Kenneth Gage, the acting director of the plague section of the Federal agency in Atlanta. . . .
Cats are particularly susceptible to the plague bacteria, Mr. Gage said. While dogs are also infected by dead rodents or fleas, they usually do not fall ill and transmit the disease to their owners.
I don't suppose this applies to indoor cats unless you also have indoor rats, but just to be on the safe side . . . if you want a friend, buy a dog. Scribal points to Craig for identifying the friend/dog allusion as a possibly spurious quotation from Harry Truman regarding Washington. Discussions of historical plague cats are ongoing at Unlocked Wordhoard and Curt Jester.