Chances are you and your favorite feline will deal with coccidia at some point. This parasite causes some unpleasant symptoms in adult cats, but for kittens it can lead to serious problems. If you suspect a problem, visit a veterinarian. Only a qualified vet can treat a coccidia infection.
Isospora felis and Isospora rivolta
There are a few types of coccidia that cats can contract, namely Isospora felis and Isospora rivolta. These protozoans -- one-cell organisms -- get in a cat's intestinal tract and lead to a disease called coccidiosis. An infection isn't typically problematic, though if your cat has other health issues or diseases, such as a suppressed immune system, you should have it treated quickly lest it lead to complications. Likewise, when coccidia infects a kitten's intestines, it hurts or even destroys the lining.
It begins when an infected animal passes passes oocysts -- sporozoan zygotes -- in its poop. At this point, the oocysts aren't infective. In other words, they won't infect your cat. Within six hours, an oocyst matures and turns into something that can cause infection. If kitty eats it at this point, it travels to his large or small intestine and sets up shop. When this kitty poos, it passes more oocysts, which another cat can contract. Kennels and homes with multiple cats are particularly susceptible to the spread of coccidia in this fashion.
You can prevent the spread of coccidia rather simply: Clean! Wash litter boxes on a regular basis and scoop out feces as often as possible between washings and litter changes. Once oocysts become capable of causing infection, they're resistant to many, if not most, disinfectants. So the faster you scoop out boxes and wipe down the kitty's environment, the less likely coccidia is to spread. Keep your cat inside to limit his exposure to coccidia oocysts in soil.
To stop the spread of coccidia once it's already begun, you'll need to visit a good veterinarian. He can test kitty's poop for signs of oocysts and may ask you some questions about symptoms -- diarrhea, weight loss, lack of appetite -- that indicate coccidia infection. Once he has a diagnosis, the veterinarian will prescribe medications such as sulfadimethoxine to fight the infection. After that, it's up to you to prevent further spread of the microscopic parasite. In other words, bust out the elbow grease and begin cleaning.