Fear-mongering: Toxoplasmosis & Scapegoating Cats

fatimahIt would be great if soundbites, yellow book journalism, and fear-mongering were left in the twentieth century, or at least exclusive to Fox News. Unfortunately, it’s not credibility the media at large is looking for – it’s attention. Every year or so the fear mongering and pseudoscience of a certain protozoan parasite, toxoplasmosis, makes its rounds. The result is not just erroneous and harmful misinformation, but the inhumane surrendering of cats to shelters.

Mammals are vectors for parasites such as toxoplasmosis. And that includes us humans. Humans contract this protozoan parasite from under-cooked meat. Humans are exposed to this parasite, just like other carnivores and omnivores, via diet:  consuming raw/inadequately cooked meat or contaminated water. Your cat is not toxic. If your cat is entirely indoors, and you’re not feeding your cat raw meat, it’s a non-issue. If your cat is indoor/outdoor or outdoor solely, your cat could contract this parasite from hunting and eating rodents, consuming raw prey. For cats, mice are vectors. This is reason enough to be a responsible pet parent and keep your kitty inside.

The concern regarding toxoplasmosis is feline feces. If you’re gardening, you’re more likely to contract toxoplasmosis from dirt than your indoor cat’s fecal matter. This being said, one should be smartly hygienic about the litter box. Keep a clean box – scoop everyday. Wear gloves. Wash your hands after cleaning up after kitty. These are simple, commonplace habits. Keep your cat(s) strictly indoors and feed her quality cat food. Regular veterinary check-ups address any potential health concerns that may arise, not just toxoplasmosis. Outdoor cats are susceptible to feline leukemia and feline AIDS. These are more pressing reasons to keep kitty inside.

If you are a pregnant women, or have small children, and an OB/GYN or pediatrician recommends and/or insists you abandon your cat, consider changing doctors. If they’re power-tripping that much over your pet, you’re guaranteed to have other negative experiences with such a physician. The vocation of medical doctor doesn’t make one an expert in every field and subject, an omnipotent know-it-all. An internist, an OB/GYN, a pediatrician, and certainly a general practitioner has no place dictating life-style and family choices, especially regarding pets. They are not veterinarians; they are not authorities on veterinary medicine. You can report any medical personnel distributing wrongful and harmful information to your state’s board of medical examiners and licensure commission. (For my state, Alabama:  http://www.albme.org/complaint.html)

If you have family, friends, and/or in-laws pimping out old wives tales and nonsense regarding your cat, educate them. There may be a deeper issue if a person(s) insist on meddling and bossing; you need to set firm boundaries. If someone continues to remain willfully ignorant after presented with facts, then your relationship with the know-it-all needs to be checked. Unfortunately, ailurophobia is a thing. And it may just be the real motive behind this defamation of cats.

Sources:

Washington State University

https://news.wsu.edu/2015/05/19/parasite-not-cat-astrophic-says-wsu-researcher/#.Vh5t0kLUXwP

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/toxoplasmosis/

American Veterinary Medical Association

https://www.avma.org/News/JAVMANews/Pages/040315m.aspx

Cats Exclusive

http://www.catsexclusive.com/blog/toxoplasmosis-myth-vs-reality

Three Million Dogs

http://3milliondogs.com/friends/6-facts-about-toxoplasmosis-that-prove-you-shouldnt-get-rid-of-your-cat-when-pregnant

Examiner.com

http://www.examiner.com/article/debunking-some-common-myths-about-cats-and-babies