Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic infection that affects felines. Fortunately, as long as your purring pal is generally healthy, he'll quickly recover without having any long-term effects. Infected kitties can transmit the parasite to you, so you'll need to take extra precautions if your furry friend becomes sick.
Toxoplasmosis is caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Once your feline ingests an infected rodent or piece of raw meat, the parasite travels down to his digestive tract, where it quickly multiplies. Cats naturally shed Toxoplasma gondii eggs, called oocysts, through waste, but some of the parasites continue to grow and thrive inside his fragile digestive tract. As the parasite further clings to intestinal walls and gets into organs, Max's immune system will naturally build up antibodies against it. As long as he is healthy, he'll suppress any infections that occur and pass the parasite, without any symptoms, all on his own.
If Max has a weakened immune system, possibly from chronic diseases such as feline leukemia virus or feline immunodeficiency virus, he may wind up showing some symptoms of toxoplasmosis, explains Dr. Susan Little, a veterinarian with the Winn Feline Foundation in New Jersey. Kittens that haven't yet developed a strong immune system may also suffer from complications. Lack of appetite, fatigue and fever are some of the early warning signs of infection.
As Max's condition worsens, he'll have more long-lasting effects, depending on where the parasites wind up in his body. If the parasite travels to his lungs, he'll probably catch pneumonia, possibly causing permanent respiratory problems. As the parasite gets further into his body, it might eventually reach his brain, affecting his central nervous system and eyes. He may have seizures, loss of coordination, swelling around the eyes and possibly blindness.
There is no vaccine to prevent toxoplasmosis, so early detection is important to fully treat the illness. Your fuzzy companion can recover from toxoplasmosis with medication. Several prescription medications help rid his system of the Toxoplasma gondii, and he should start showing improvement within a couple days of taking them, according to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.
You can't catch toxoplasmosis by touching your sick kitty, but you'll have to be careful when handling his litter box. Because oocysts escape through his feces, Max can transmit the parasite to you, although infection in humans is rare. Clean his litter box daily to get rid of oocysts. Toxoplasma gondii transmit through fecal matter. Wear gloves or wash your hands thoroughly with hot water after coming into contact with his waste. If you scoop his box and then touch your mouth without washing your hands, your risk of infection increases.
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.