What is feline toxoplasmosis?

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There’s been a lot of media attention again about toxoplasmosis. While it’s a serious disease for the cat—and a potential threat to a few people—it’s just as important for people to realize that it is, for the most part, this is a preventable disease.
Simple precautions include hand hygiene, washing fruits and vegetables, and avoiding the ingestion of uncooked meat.
Toxoplasma is a parasite that is common in animals but rarely causes any problems. However, there are times when it can produce eggs in cats, such as when the cat eats infected meat. Then, the parasite multiplies in the walls of the cat’s intestines. Usually the cat eliminates the eggs, or oocysts, in their feces, so there is no problem. Sometimes, however, the parasite organisms dig deeper into the cat’s intestine walls, spreading to other parts of the body—such as the lungs and the brain–and shuts down the cat’s immune system so it can no longer fight the infection. That’s when toxoplasmosis occurs.
When it occurs, the cat will lose his appetite, run a fever and become lethargic, with possibly vomiting, diarrhea and pneumonia. The cat’s central nervous system can become infected, causing seizures. Also, the cat’s eyes will swell and his heart will weaken.
Treatment is usually a round or two of antibiotics and recovery. Recovery is quicker for cats with good immune systems as compared to kittens with developing immune systems or older cats with weakened immune systems.
As always, prevention is better than treatment, so never let your cat ingest raw meat or wander outside where he can eat birds or mice. Clean the litter box regularly and keep garbage out of cat’s reach—be especially watchful if your cat likes to counter surf or find other ways of foraging for food.
Toxoplasma can only infect humans through cat feces, raw meat and contaminated soil, so if you follow the precautions there’s no need for concern. That doesn’t apply to pregnant woman who should not empty or clean litter boxes because the infection can transmit to the unborn child.

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