First, a run-down on the subject in question, for those cat owners who aren’t quite sure: Toxoplasmosis is a disease that is caused by a parasite called Toxoplasma Gondii. It’s one of the most common parasites in the world and an estimated 60 million Americans have been infected with it at some point. As gruesome as this all sounds, most people never even know they have it because it causes them literally zero symptoms. It’s most frequently contracted through the consumption of contaminated under-cooked meat and unwashed produce. Contaminated water and contact with soil when gardening are also sources of infection, though they’re not as common. For cat owners, it’s relevant because cats are the only animals the parasite can complete its life-cycle in and it can - rarely - be passed on through contact with cat feces.
Well, while it’s true that most people display no symptoms, the ones that do are usually those who are immunocompromised, such as people living with HIV/AIDS or chemotherapy patients. Their lowered immune systems allow the parasite to multiply unchecked and cause problems ranging from seizures to encephalitis, which can be fatal. In pregnant women, T.Gondii can cause serious congenital complications for their baby, particularly if contracted in the first trimester. It’s more common for it to be picked up in the third trimester but it’s in the first that the risk of miscarriage is increased. This is often where the concern about being a cat-parent while becoming a person-parent starts. We explain a bit more on this further on. Reassuringly, if the pregnant mother had already had the infection prior to conception, then there’s no risk to the baby at all.
Great question, because people do tend to equate toxoplasmosis with our beloved kitties. The reason for this is because although most animals and birds (and their meat) can be infected with T.Gondii, our feline friends are the only ones within whom the parasites reproduce and are passed on through feces. This means that litter trays are an often suspected cause of the disease. In fact, it’s far more common for people to pick up T.Gondii from unwashed fruits and vegetables (think manure-based fertilizer) and undercooked meat than from cat poop.
The only way your cat can be infected with T.Gondii is through consuming infected meat. So if your kitty is allowed to roam outside and will, therefore, be killing and eating wildlife, then there is a chance that he or she will be carrying the parasite. If you’re a responsible pet owner and keep your cat indoors then you’ve got nothing to worry about. By making your kitty indoor-only, and only give them cooked meat, you’ll not only be protecting your furry friend but the local wildlife as well.
Understandably, as an environmentally conscious cat parent, you don’t want to be responsible for passing on the parasite or introducing it into the water system by flushing parasite-y poop. The parasite only lives for two weeks in the host so keeping your cat indoors for two to three weeks will allow T.Gondii to complete its life-cycle and clear the body, rendering any feces parasite free. Hurrah! By flushing with TofuKitty, you’re eliminating the chances of spilt litter contaminating pathways and bins. And remember, wild and outdoor cats are pooping outside, which leads to runoff. In effect, you’re actually preventing toxoplasmosis and protecting the environment by stopping at least one source of the parasite. Go you!
Toxoplasmosis is a scary sounding word for something that will have little to no effect on most of us. But for the sake of those for whom it has more serious effects, we have a responsibility to keep it at bay. To sum up everything you need to know about toxoplasmosis: for prevention, wash your vegetables, cook your meat thoroughly, and keep your cat indoors. Simple!