There are many misconceptions and myths surrounding toxoplasmosis and the potential threats it poses to pregnant or immuno-comprised individuals. To begin, toxoplasma gondii is an intestinal parasite that is most often associated with cats. The parasite causes the disease toxoplasmosis, which is a potential health concern for pregnant women. This parasite is estimated to infect as much as one third of the world’s human population, but very rarely do those infected get sick.
However, the parasite can be dangerous in rare cases. Individuals with weakened immune systems, such as AIDS patients, can sometimes become seriously ill as a result of infection. Similarly, pregnant women can pass on the parasite to their unborn child. For this reason, many doctors are quick to tell pregnant women to get rid of their cats. However, it is important to note that there is less risk of acquiring toxoplasmosis from cats than from eating raw vegetables and undercooked meat. Additionally, owning a cat does not increase the risk of contracting toxoplasmosis.
Still, pregnant women can take certain precautions when in contact with cats. If pregnant, one should avoid cleaning litter boxes if possible, as infected cats could pass the parasite in their feces. If a pregnant woman has no alternative but to clean the litter box herself, she should wear disposable gloves and wash her hands thoroughly afterwards. Furthermore, it is important to scoop the litter box frequently, ideally daily, to decrease the chance of infection as the oocysts in cat feces takes one to three days to become infectious.
Pregnant women should also keep their cat indoors, so that the cat is not exposed to other animals who may be infected. Additionally, all newly adopted cats should be tested for the disease. Pregnant women can also be screened for toxoplasmosis. The only risk occurs when the parasite infects a woman during pregnancy; if she was exposed to toxoplasmosis before pregnancy, there is no risk to her child since she will have developed antibodies. If a woman is pregnant when she contracts toxoplasmosis, medication is available for effective management and treatment.
ACR does not want to make light of the fact that if a pregnant woman does contract toxoplasmosis it can be dangerous for her unborn baby. However, individuals who are uninformed and those who do not like cats exaggerate this particular hazard. Many doctors are unaware that the risk of toxoplasmosis transmitted via infected cats to pregnant women is very low, and acquiring it through exposure from cat feces is far less likely than from raw and undercooked meat. Thousands of women with cats go on to give birth to happy, healthy babies, and being pregnant is not a reason to give up your cat. By simply following basic safety precautions, you can protect yourself and your baby from acquiring toxoplasmosis without having to give up your cat.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Toxoplasmosis.” CDC.gov. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 July 2014.
Montoya, J. G., and O. Liesenfeld. “Toxoplasmosis.” Lancet 363.9425 (2004): 1965–76. NCBI PubMed. Web. 29 Sept. 2014.
Vittecoq, Marion et al. “Cat Ownership Is Neither a Strong Predictor of Toxoplamsa Gondii Infection nor a Risk Factor for Brain Cancer.” Biology Letters (2012): rsbl20120625. Rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org. Web. 17 July 2014.
One of the common complaints among people with gardens and yards is that feral cats will often use their outdoor area to urinate and defecate. However, there are a number of different solutions to remedy this problem. Cats can be discouraged from digging in your garden beds or wandering around your yard by employing a few tactics or products. Be sure to change your tactics regularly, as a new cat might not respond to your usual methods.
The first option is to use an odor barrier. Cats have extremely sensitive noses, with 200 million odor receptors, compared to humans, who have a measly five million. By making your garden or yard offensive to a cat's sense of smell, you have a greater change at keeping them away. Commercial cat repellents use the odor barrier method to discourage cats from entering off-limit areas. Shake-Away powder, a commercial cat repellent, has the scent of predators that cats fear, such as coyotes, foxes, and bobcats. It comes in a granular form, which you can simply sprinkle on your garden or yard. It is non-toxic, organic, and will not harm your plants. Additionally, some plants give off an unpleasant odor to cats, such as Coleus canina, rue, lavendar, and pennyroyal. Cats also dislike the smell of citrus, so you can try using the peels of oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits in your garden.
Using a physical barrier is another form of deterrent. Chicken wire is very efficient at keeping cats away, as they hate bristly material. Additionally, cats prefer to dig and defecate in loose dirt, so using sharp-edged pine cones, holly cuttings, eggshells, or stone mulch will deter them from using your garden as a litter box.
Finally, another effective option is to use sound barriers. Cats are far more sensitive to sounds than humans, therefore it is effective means of prevention. Cat Stop is an electronic cat deterrent decide that produces a high frequency which is inaudible to humans but extremely unpleasant for cats. It works by using a motion sensor, and when it detects an intruder, it emits the high-frequency sound thus scaring off the cat. The SsssCat! is also motion activated and uses sound and a sprayed repellent to keep cats away.
While it may be annoying to deal with cats using your garden or yard as their personal litter box, the problem is not without its solutions. There are many safe and humane options and products available to prevent cats from visiting your property, so do some research and decide which method works best for you.
For many years there has been a widespread misunderstanding around the topic of FIV+ cats. However, a recent long-term study conducted by Purdue University’s College of Veterinary examined FIV+ cats in shelters and drew two important conclusions: FIV-positive cats can live with FIV-negative cats and not infect the FIV-negative cats during normal day-to-day interactions, and mother cats infected with FIV don’t pass the virus on to their kittens.
While this has been a widely known and accepted fact among cat experts, the general public is generally misinformed when it comes to FIV+ cats and the risk of transmission to other household cats. The study confirms that there is no reason for FIV cats to be adopted only into homes with other FIV-positive cats. The disease is transmitted only by deep bite wounds, which happens only if the cats get into intense fights, which can usually be easily prevented by taking the necessary steps.
The incorrect belief that mother cats can pass FIV on to their kittens is widely believed by cat owners. As a result, many thousands of cats and kittens have been unnecessarily euthanized. These otherwise adoptable animals are destined for euthanasia because of the false beliefs perpetuated by stereotypes and misinformation.
Compounding this issue is that cat owners often confuse FIV for FeLV (the feline leukemia virus), which is transmissible through cohabitation and casual contact. These two diseases are retroviruses and both affect the immune system. However, there is a critical difference. FIV does not easily cross the mucous membranes (the lining of the mouth, nose, eyes, genitals, and intestines), which is why it’s so difficult for FIV to be transmitted to other cats.
Ultimately, this study confirms what cat advocates have known for years - FIV+ cats can live a long and healthy life in the company of other cats in the home, without significant risk of transmitting the disease. It is time to end the stigma surrounding FIV and FIV+ cats, and place them in loving homes just as all cats deserve.
During this pandemic, everyone is probably feeling a little stir crazy, your cat included. Here are some fun ways to keep your cat entertained while you're both staying at home.
1. Food Puzzles - This will help with your cat's natural instinct to hunt for their food. There are many types of food puzzles available at your local pet store or even DIY ones.
2. Vertical Space- Provide your cat with the feel of outdoors without leaving the house. By creating perches, shelves or having a cat tower by windows will allow your cat to view the outdoors and release their climbing and clawing needs. There are many different ways to create vertical spaces for your cat!
3. Interactive Toys- These toys create a bonding experience between you and your cat. They can include wand toys, strings, and laser pointers (remember to always have a toy for them to catch in the end!).
4. Self Play Toys.- These are types that a cat can use on their own. There are a variety of battery operated toys, balls or even something as simple as a cardboard box! Check out your local pet store for many options!
Providing your cat with an enrichment filled environment will lead to a mentally, emotionally and physically happy cat!
Alley Cat Rescue is leading in the way in promoting humane and compassionate care for ALL cats.