Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis in cats. If infected, your furry family member can transmit the bug to you. Your feline can catch it from a number of sources. Keep him separated from the other animals in your home if your vet determines that he is infected.
From Other Animals
One of the most common ways cats become infected with Toxoplasma gondii is through other animals. Cats are the only definitive hosts for the parasite to thrive in, but other mammals can carry the parasite and get your beloved friend sick. If Max has access to your backyard, his natural hunting instincts can cause him to unintentionally catch an infected animal. When he eats a parasite-carrying mouse, rat, bird or other critter, he'll probably wind up becoming infected himself. Even if Max is an indoor-only kitty, catching a carrier rodent in your basement may also make him sick.
Your purring pal might catch Toxoplasma gondii when he comes into contact with infected fecal matter. Cats shed eggs of Toxoplasma gondii, called oocysts, about 10 days after they ingest the parasite, the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine reports. If your precious feline goes near droppings from a carrier cat, he'll likely wind up catching the Toxoplasma gondii parasite. For example, if you have one infected feline in your home, he can spread the parasite to a healthy cat when they share the litter box. Also, allowing your cuddly companion to venture outdoors increases his odds, since he may dig in areas where infected kitties go to the bathroom.
Your beloved companion can become infected with Toxoplasma gondii through his diet. Raw meat that carries oocysts can quickly trigger toxoplasmosis in your kitty's fragile body. If you treat Max to a premium cut of steak, slice of bacon or piece of chicken, make sure it is thoroughly cooked. He is unlikely to catch the parasite through kitty food because formulated feline diets are thoroughly processed and undergo rigid quality checks.
Fortunately most healthy cats are able to fight off the harmful parasite all on their own. However, kittens or adult felines diagnosed with chronic illnesses, such as feline leukemia, might not be able to get rid of Toxoplasma gondii, resulting in toxoplasmosis, according to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Early warning signs of infection include extreme fatigue, loss of appetite and fever. In severe cases, respiratory problems, including pneumonia, may develop. As the infection progresses, it might affect your fuzzy companion's central nervous system and can ultimately be fatal. Your veterinarian will have to run a series of blood tests to confirm the presence of Toxoplasma gondii.
Even if you find that Max is indeed a carrier of the Toxoplasma gondii, the parasite is not likely to make you sick. The only way for the parasite to get into your body and cause toxoplasmosis is if you accidentally wind up consuming droppings. Cleaning the litter box of an infected cat and then not thoroughly washing your hands before eating allows the parasite to potentially enter your body. Even though transmission to humans is rare, wash your hands or wear gloves when cleaning out the litter box, as a precaution.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.