Fact Sheet: Toxoplasmosis and Cats

Toxoplasmosis gondii is a parasite found in humans and animals. The disease caused by the parasite can be transmitted from one species to another. It can be serious for pregnant women (mainly for the offspring who can be born with mental retardation or blindness) and for those with compromised immune systems.

Understanding how the organism is transmitted can help to eliminate the possibility of humans contracting toxo. and will hopefully prevent doctors from persuading pregnant women from giving up their beloved companion animals.

Any animal can become a host (rodents, birds, pigs, cattle, cats) Cats become infected through eating infected rodents, birds and raw meat. Therefore indoor cats who do not hunt are less likely to be infected. If a pregnant woman is concerned about this disease, the cat can be tested for toxo. and if positive, can be treated.

One of the most important facts about toxoplasmosis that most doctors do not seem to be familiar with is that an infected cat excretes the parasite's eggs in the faeces. The eggs, however, do not become infected until at least 24 hours and more after the elimination. Therefore the simple act of cleaning the litter box daily or twice daily, which should be done in any case for all cats, will remove any trace of excreted oocysts.

Another fact that escapes most doctors is that most human cases come from eating infected meat. Dr. Larry Glickman, Professor of Epidemiology and public health at Purdue University, says: "Most human infections come from eating undercooked or raw meat and not from direct contact with domestic cats and their excreta."

Even touching infected meat and then putting your hands to your mouth can pass along toxoplasmosis. Actually the same means of transference from cat feces to humans is the only way to pass along the disease. One has to actually ingest cat feces. Again just practicing normal basic hygiene totally eliminates any chance of infection.

These are the steps to take if you are pregnant, and should help you to keep your cats.

1. Prevent your cat from getting infected. Feed only dry or canned cat food. Do not feed your cat raw meat.

2. Clean the litter box twice daily and wash it with hot water-this will eliminate any oocysts before they become infective.

3. Avoid the litter box. Have someone else in the house clean the box.

4. Use gloves when gardening or when changing the litter box, wash hands thoroughly afterwards.

5. Test your cat for toxoplasmosis.

6. Before becoming pregnant, women should be themselves be tested. The presence of antibodies lessons the likelihood of congenital transmission.

7. Exclude raw and undercooked meat and unpasteurized dairy products from the diet.


Article courtesy of Alley Cat Rescue