Toxoplasmosis is a parasite that can cause your cat to get sick and even infect you.This parasite, also known as toxoplasma gondii, is widely present in the environment and any mammal can carry it. Your cat could have it and you wouldn't know until it begins to overwhelm his or her immune system and cause them to have health problems. Here is more about the basics of toxoplasmosis in cats and what you can do to minimize the risk and complications of an infection.
How do Cats Get Infected with Toxoplasmosis?
Cats pick up the parasite by eating an infected animal, such as a rat. Cats are considered the primary host for toxoplasmosis, and the parasite completes its life cycle inside their bodies. Cats will shed infected oocysts for about two weeks through their feces. Other cats can then pick up the parasite from those feces.
What are the Signs of Infection in Cats?
Most cats won't show any symptoms at all. Those that do get sick show signs of a loss of appetite, fever, and lethargy. If the lungs, brain, or liver are infected, then your cat may show signs of jaundice, trouble breathing, or neurological problems. Cats with a compromised immune system, or very young or very old cats, are most likely to become ill.
How are Humans Exposed to Toxoplasmosis?
Since the toxoplasmosis parasite can be present in any mammal, people are most likely to pick up the parasite by mishandling or consuming raw meat. Also, handling cat feces can also put you at higher risk of being infected. Pregnant women and those with weaker immune systems are the most vulnerable.
What Can Be Done to Prevent Toxoplasmosis?
To reduce the risk of infection, keep your cat indoors and don't let him or her eat wild animals. Wash your hands after handling raw meat and only feed cooked food to your cat. Keep your cat's litter box clean and wear protective gloves while handling cat feces. People who are at high risk of infection should have someone else clean the litter box if possible.
Toxoplasmosis has been getting a lot of attention recently because of its potential effects on humans. However, treatments are available for sick cats and most humans are not at risk for illness if they take precautions. So there is no need to worry about giving up your pet cat. However, you should have your cat tested for the parasite and treated if he or she is positive. If your cat is showing signs of toxoplasmosis, or any other parasite, talk to a professional veterinarian as soon as possible.