Kittens and kids can go perfectly together as long as children know how to properly treat the animals -- and if you keep both parties safe from infection from the other. Both human and feline youngsters have immature immune systems, and kittens can spread some diseases to kids. Coccidiosis is one of them. If kids handle any kittens or cats, make sure they wash their hands thoroughly afterward.
The protozoa Coccidia isospora is common in areas where feces are found. A mother cat may ingest them if coming into contact with such material and then licking herself. Then she can pass the protozoa on to her kittens. Another venue for transmission occurs if the mother cat eats rodents contaminated with Coccidia.
Coccodia, often found in kitten feces, doesn't usually cause a problem unless the kittens are stressed and their still-undeveloped immune systems can't ward off the protozoan invader. This results in coccidiosis, with diarrhea the most obvious symptom. Stools may include blood and mucus. Affected kittens are lethargic, don't want to eat, vomit and may become anemic. Take kittens with diarrhea to the vet at once to avoid further complications, such as dehydration.
Kittens diagnosed with coccidosis need fluids and a bland diet that won't exacerbate diarrhea. Give the kittens plenty of water, flavored with tuna water or chicken broth to encourage drinking. If the kitten is really dehydrated, the vet can offer intravenous fluid replacement. Coccidosis runs its course in approximately 10 days.
Keep Kids Safe
Don't let kids go near any kittens known to have coccidiosis. If the kittens have recovered, get the go-ahead from your vet and pediatrician before letting kids play with the kittens. Keep toddlers or young kids who constantly put their fingers and hands in their mouth away from kittens. Coccidia is not often passed to children from pets, but even kids who are exposed rarely have symptoms. However, it is always wise to take precautions. Children with depressed immune systems, just like their kitten and puppy counterparts, are most likely to be affected. Don't let sick children or any kids known to have compromised immune systems play with kittens.
Toxoplasmosis, a type of coccidiosis, may harm the fetus if a pregnant woman is exposed to the parasite. While the usual means of transmission is eating undercooked meat, a pregnant woman can get it from cat feces. That's why pregnant women are advised not to clean litter boxes or to wear gloves when doing so. For added safety, don't feed your cat raw meat.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.