What is it, and how does it affect my cat and myself or my family?
Toxoplasmosis (Toxoplasma gondi) affects most animals – most notably sheep, cats, and humans. Cats can become infected by eating infected rodents, birds, or anything contaminated with feces from another infected cat. Toxoplasmosis is considered a zoonotic diseases, meaning one that can be transmitted between cats and people. For more information about zoonotic diseases please see Cornell University’s Feline Health Center’s page, Zoonotic Disease: What Can I Catch From My Cat?
There are different basic forms of Toxoplasma organism. The form that is contagious to humans is the intestinal form in which a cat sheds oocysts in its feces. Toxoplasmosis is spread from cat to human when a person inadvertently comes in oral contact with this form of Toxoplasma.
You may or may not be aware that your cat is infected. Cats may experience an acute illness; however, in adult cats, symptoms are usually mild and go unnoticed. The most common symptoms of toxoplasmosis include fever, loss of appetite, and lethargy. Other signs may present affecting the lungs, the eyes or the central nervous system.
Toxoplasmosis is often discussed with your veterinarian when a pet owner becomes pregnant. Because of the risk to an unborn child, some medical doctors even recommend that pregnant women do not keep cats as pets.