Are domestic cats more likely to have Toxoplasma gondii?

Domestic cats, like all cat species, can indeed carry the Toxoplasma gondii parasite. These feline companions become infected by consuming infected rodents, birds, or other small animals, or by ingesting anything contaminated with feces from another cat that sheds the microscopic parasite. After infection, a cat can shed the parasite for up to two weeks. The infective stage occurs one to five days after the parasite is passed in the cat’s feces. Toxoplasma can persist in the environment for months, contaminating soil, water, fruits, vegetables, and various surfaces.

However, it’s essential to note that indoor cats, especially those that do not hunt prey or consume raw meat, are less likely to be infected with Toxoplasma. Cats kept indoors do not typically contribute significantly to the spread of the parasite. In contrast, free-roaming domestic cats (both pets and feral cats) are more likely to be the cause of Toxoplasma infections due to their outdoor activities and potential exposure to infected prey or contaminated environments ¹ ² ³.

For humans, the risk of infection primarily arises from:

  1. Ingesting contaminated food, water, or soil: Consuming food or water tainted with infected cat feces or accidentally swallowing soil containing the parasite.
  2. Consuming undercooked meat: Especially from animals like pigs, lamb, or wild game that carry Toxoplasma.
  3. Transmission from an infected pregnant woman to her unborn child: When the mother acquires Toxoplasma during pregnancy.

While over 30 million people in the United States carry the Toxoplasma parasite, most remain asymptomatic. However, individuals with weakened immune systems or pregnant women should take precautions, such as changing cat litter boxes daily and practicing good hygiene ¹ ⁴.

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(1) CDC – Toxoplasmosis: An Important Message for Cat Owners.
(2) Can Indoor Cats Get Toxoplasmosis? Vet Reviewed Signs & Prevention Tips.
(3) Toxoplasmosis | American Veterinary Medical Association.
(4) Toxoplasmosis and cats | International Cat Care.
(5) Domestic cats drive spread of Toxoplasma parasite to wildlife.

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