Toxoplasmosis is something I never knew much about. All I knew was it was related to a parasite and the reason pregnant women or organ transplant recipients weren’t supposed to scoop litter boxes. When my new foster, Rufus, was diagnosed with toxoplasmosis, I wanted to learn more. I soon realized it’s not as scary as it seems, and that Rufus’ main symptom, wobbliness, is likely from cerebral hypoplasia, not toxoplasmosis. Here are some interesting facts I learned about toxoplasmosis.
#1 Toxoplasmosis Is an Infection Caused by a Parasite Found in a Cat’s Prey.
Toxoplasmosis is actually an infection caused by a microscopic single-celled parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. This parasite is actually related to coccidia, another parasite cats can get. Toxoplasma gondii is found in infected rodents, birds and other small animals. For this reason, it’s more common for a stray cat to have toxoplasmosis than an indoor, non-hunting cat.
#2 Very Few Cats Show Symptoms of Toxoplasmosis.
In healthy cats, there are rarely any symptoms. The body’s immune response is very effective, and more than likely you’ll never know your cat ever had toxoplasmosis. However, immunocomprimised cats may show symptoms like eye issues, respiratory illness, neurological signs like wobblieness, fever, lethargy, and more.
#3 Toxoplasmosis Can Be Passed onto Humans, Who Usually Also Have No Symptoms.
A person may get flu-like symptoms, but for the most part, it goes undetected. Just like in cats, symptoms may be more apparent in infants, seniors, and immunocompromised individuals.
#4 It Is More Common for Humans to Get Toxoplasmosis From Contaminated Meat Than From Their Cat.
The window of infection is small, so it’s more likely for a person to get toxoplasmosis from food than their pet.
#5 Toxoplasmosis Can Cause Problems with Fetuses and Newborns.
Toxoplasmosis can have negative impacts on a fetus, especially during the first trimester, and even cause a miscarriage. Problems a fetus or infant could have include fluid around the brain, eye infections, irregularities in the brain or even an enlarged liver or spleen.
#6 A Positive Blood Test Doesn’t Mean a Cat Is Currently Infected.
There are two types of antibodies measured for toxoplasmosis: IgM and IgG. IgM means recent (new) exposure within the past 1-2 weeks, whereas IgG means previous exposure and the cat has antibodies for the infection.
#7 Unlike Other Parasites, Toxoplasma Gondii Eggs Are Only Shed in Cat Feces for 10-14 Days Following Initial Exposure.
A cat will start shedding eggs in their feces 3-10 days after they’re exposed to toxoplasmosis (either by eating infected prey or exposure to eggs in another cat’s feces). Once they start shedding, they’ll shed eggs in their feces for 10-14 days.
#8 Eggs in Feces Start Becoming Infective 24 Hours – 5 Days After Leaving the Cat’s Body.
Under 24 hours, the eggs are not infective. Basically, if you clean and sanitize a litter box at least once a day over the 14 days of possible infection, you (and your cats) will not come in contact with infected eggs.
#9 Eggs Can Live in Cat Feces in Soil Up to 18 Months.
Always where gloves when gardening, especially if you grow vegetables you plan to eat.
#10 Treatment for Cats Is 2-4 Weeks of an Antibiotic, Typically Clindamycin
Sometimes clindamycin is combined with a steroid if the cat is having issues with its eyes.
Cornell Feline Health Center, Toxoplasmosis in Cats.
National Institutes of Health, Mother to Baby, Toxoplasmosis.
VCA Animal Hospitals, Toxoplasmosis.