Allowing Kitty to explore the great outdoors can lead to loads of different headaches and dangers -- one of them being the uncertainty over what exactly is going into your little one's mouth. Consumption of mice and birds can often lead to parasites in cats -- think Toxoplasma gondii.
The parasitic disease toxoplasmosis results from a parasite known as Toxoplasma gondii. If a cat is stalking and hunting small prey such as mice and birds, eating them could result in infection -- if they are carriers, of course. The parasite is common in mice and birds, who pick up the parasite by eating infected stool or contaminated meat. The single-celled parasite is also extremely prevalent in cats. According to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, it is uncommon for Toxoplasma gondii to lead to obvious sickness or discomfort in any type of animal -- including felines.
Toxoplasmosis typically does not lead to illness or symptoms in cats -- phew. However, some cats may occasionally experience signs of the parasitic disease. The Feline Advisory Bureau cites muscle aching, diarrhea, throwing up, eye issues, respiratory problems, exhaustion, weight loss, reduced appetite and fever as all possible indications of the condition. If you are worried that your cutie might be suffering from toxoplasmosis, take her to the veterinarian for a physical examination immediately.
Pregnancy is one of the circumstances in which toxoplasmosis can pose difficulties. Toxoplasmosis can be very harmful for kittens during gestation. For example, infected pregnant queen cats may experience dangers such as stillbirth and miscarriage. Toxoplasmosis is also potentially very hazardous for pregnant women, occasionally leading to similar complications, including birth defects. The parasitic condition is passed on from cat to human via close contact with infected fecal matter. Because of this, expectant mothers should avoid changing Fluffy's litter box. If this is not possible, always wear rubber gloves and follow up litter box duty with careful and extended hand washing.
Toxoplasmosis isn't the only thing that cats can catch from eating mice and birds. Tapeworms are another frustrating possibility. When a cat ingests a small animal that is a carrier of tapeworm larvae, infection can occur. If your cat goes outdoors a lot, be on guard for symptoms of the intestinal parasite, including a messy-looking coat and weight loss. These symptoms are a result of the parasites zapping nutrients from your feline, and thus bringing upon dietary deficiencies. Schedule an appointment with the vet immediately if you think your fluff ball might have tapeworms.
- Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: Toxoplasmosis in Cats
- ASPCA: Toxoplasmosis
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Toxoplasmosis - An Important Message for Cat Owners
- Feline Advisory Bureau: Cats and Toxoplasmosis
- Feline Advisory Bureau: Toxoplasmosis in Cats and Man
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Toxoplasma Infection and Animals
- The Merck Veterinary Manual: Tapeworms
- The Humane Society of the United States: Pregnancy and Toxoplasmosis
- George Doyle & Ciaran Griffin/Stockbyte/Getty Images