There are a number of fungus and bacteria-related ailments that your cat can get. If humans are susceptible to getting sick from the disease, they are referred to as zoonotic diseases. There are roughly 200 zoonosis types, the most common being the various forms tick-related viruses like Lyme disease. Toxoplasmosis in cats is one the zoonotic diseases that can adversely affect humans.

What Is Toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic zoonotic disease caused by the Toxoplasma gondii. Eye problems are the most noted ailments that come from exposure to the disease. People who have a compromised immune system can experience serious reactions, including seizures and respiratory distress.

It can harm young children more seriously than adults and transmits as congenital toxoplasmosis if a pregnant woman is exposed. The potential severity increases with each trimester of pregnancy.

While the transmission of the parasite form of the disease is also possible from poorly cooked meat products, it is primarily associated with cats. The main mode of transport is through your cat’s feces, so if you suspect that your cat may be infected, use extra caution when handling their litter box.

The parasite can navigate its way for short periods, so keeping a potentially affected cat off food counters and dinner tables is highly recommended. Wild and domesticated cats are the only animals in which the disease can live a full life cycle and reproduce.

Cats are referred to as the definitive host of toxoplasmosis, although it can be transmitted to humans if it infects raw food. It can also remain active for ample time to be passed from the fingertips to the nasal passages, the eyes, or into the mouth as an essentially invisible parasite.

How Does Your Cat Get Toxoplasmosis?

a drawing of toxoplasmosis cycle

Toxoplasmosis in cats is caused by your cat somehow ingesting the toxoplasma organism in one of its three stages of life. The parasite begins as a tachyzoite, moves to a second stage as an oocyst, and then progresses to its most potent stage as a cyst.

Once your cat eats any one of these various parasite stages, it moves to an intra-intestinal phase inside your cat’s digestive system. Toxoplasmosis in cats is the single unique environment where the parasite can reproduce. No other animal can harbor any stage of the parasite where it can reproduce, which is why diagnosis in other animals is so rare.

Oddly enough, once the parasite phases past the oocyst stage your cat will essentially become immune to any adverse effects of toxoplasmosis. However, your cat will now be a host, transmitting the disease as soon as they have a bowel movement. That is why it is so vitally important to exercise extreme caution when handling the litter of potentially infected cats.

Symptoms of Toxoplasmosis in Cats

a lazy cat yawning

There are a number of signs for toxoplasmosis in cats. Many of them may be indicative of another problem, but since it can cause severe problems in certain situations if you suspect your cat is infected have it diagnosis by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Immediately begin to use extra caution with your cat’s litter box and being attentive to all bowel movements. Potentially infected cats must be kept away from areas where food is prepared.

If your cat has toxoplasmosis, there is no guarantee you will notice any signs. As mentioned, the parasites can live its entire life cycle within your cat’s intestinal tract, and continue to reproduce where it becomes harmful to other creatures through your cat’s feces.

Most cats that contract toxoplasmosis do exhibit signs of unusual lethargy, reduced appetite, sudden vomiting or diarrhea. Severe infestations may include seizures and tremors, or even partial to complete paralysis.

Other more visible signs your cat has toxoplasmosis are reddened and inflamed eyes. This is caused when your cat picks up the parasite on their paws and then transfers them to their head. The retina and cornea of your cat’s eye can be compromised.

If left untreated, it can cause blindness. When your cat exhibits any combination of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.

Preventing Toxoplasmosis in Cats

Cats are the only mammals where toxoplasmosis can complete its life cycle, so they can also be the place where the reproductive cycle is stopped. At present, there is not an immunization for cats to prevent toxoplasmosis, but there is hope one may be developed in time.

Since the parasite that is the root cause of toxoplasmosis in cats in ingested, feed your cat only canned or dry commercial cat food. Make sure that the utensils you use to serve your cat moist food with are clean and sanitary.

Clean your cat’s food bowl after every meal and do not feed your cat directly from the can. The parasite can live on the outside of the can, and all it takes is one lick on the outside of the can to infect your cat.

Toxoplasmosis’ final and most dangerous phase for you and your family are after it is expelled from your cat’s digestive system. Toxoplasmosis in cats is not nearly as harmful as it can be for young children, or people weak weakened immune systems.

The best prevention is to maintain the utmost cleanliness in your cat’s litter area. If your cat has been diagnosed with toxoplasmosis, or you suspect that they may have it, change their litter box every day. It may seem a little wasteful and costly, but the alternative consequences are far worse.

Wash their litter box with boiling water and bleach, but remember that bleach may not always kill the oocyst stage of toxoplasmosis. Dry the litter box well before adding new litter.

If you are able to use two different litter boxes, the parasite cannot live without a hosting environment for more than a few hours. A dry and empty litter box will become toxoplasmosis free in a few hours.

Treatment for Toxoplasmosis in Cats

While the hope of a successful shot to immunize your cat is pending, until then there is nothing you can do except exercise prudent prevention to keep your cat from getting toxoplasmosis. If they do contract the disease, do not panic.

As noted, many times a cat’s natural immune system will activate removing any danger to your cat. However, if diagnosed, your vet can prescribe one of two safe antibiotics that will cure your cat.

If you think your cat might have been exposed to toxoplasmosis, do not waste any time having them checked. It will prove a lot less of a hassle to get your cat cured than to deal with the headaches that could be involved later. Remember, prevention is the key. Only cat food and a clean litter area are great ways to prevent toxoplasmosis in cats.

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