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Vet Gazette

Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine eNewsletter

Cat Droppings Can Cause Human Health Problems

July 8th, 2013

kittenAccording to the Center for Disease Control, cats play an important role in the spread of Toxoplasmosis, a protozoan parasite. Infected cats shed an embryonic stage of the parasite called oocysts in their feces.

In the United States it is estimated that 22.5% of the population 12 years and older have been infected with Toxoplasma. The parasite causes acute health problems in the very young or those with compromised immune systems.

The Humane Society estimates there are 86 million cats that are household pets in the United States, and more than 30 million feral cats.

The presence of large numbers of oocysts on playgrounds and in sandboxes, where kids stick their hands in their mouths , bears particular attention, says Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, pediatric disease specialist. “If you have a sandbox that isn’t covered, get rid of the sand and cover it when kids aren’t playing,” he says.

He also has advice for green thumbs. “Studies have shown that you can have almost 100 oocysts under your fingernails after gardening. So always wash your hands after gardening, and wash vegetables before eating them,” he says.

In case you’re afraid of what this means for your own pet, Torrey says, “strictly indoor cats really shouldn’t be a problem. The chance of them becoming infected is very low.” Read more.

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