Toxoplasmosis and Cats

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Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by a single cell parasite named Toxoplasma gondii. One of the most prevalent parasite-borne disease, toxoplasmosis has been found in almost all warm-blooded animals. However, the infection rarely causes any symptoms.

Wild and domestic cats are the only definitive hosts for the parasite, which means that Toxoplasma gondii can only produce eggs (oocysts) when it infects a cat. The cat will become infected if it consumes infected meat or another animal that already has the parasite. The parasite will multiply in the cat’s digestive system and oocysts will be excreted in the cat’s feces. A cat will start excreting oocysts between 3 and 10 days after ingestion of the infected meat, and then continue to do so for 10 to 14 days after.

Most cats infected with this parasite will show no symptoms. Occasionally, however, toxoplasmosis will occur, the primary symptoms of which are fever, loss of appetite, and lethargy. Toxoplasmosis can also lead to pneumonia and can affect the eyes and nervous system.

It is difficult for humans to catch the parasite from their pet cats. Cats kept indoors that are not fed raw meat are unlikely to become infected with Toxoplasma gondii. Additionally, it is unlikely that a cat bite or cat scratch would expose a human to the parasite. In the US, humans that eat raw meat or unwashed fruits and vegetables are much more likely to be exposed.

However, 2 groups of people are at much higher risk: pregnant women and immunodeficient individuals. Congenital infection among humans is a huge concern, as a third to a half of babies born to mothers infected with Toxoplasma will get the disease. Though the mother will likely not show any symptoms, babies will likely show signs of the disease, such as loss of vision, loss of hearing, and mental retardation, later in life. This is why, as you may know, mothers-to-be are supposed to stay away from litter boxes!

When in doubt, consult your vet and your doctor, and learn more about toxoplasmosis by clicking the link below!

Works cited:

http://www.vet.cornell.edu/FHC/health_resources/toxoplasmosis.cfm