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Toxoplasmosis questions.

Species: Cat
Breed: mixed breed
Age: 8-11 years
1) My cat is an outdoor cat. I know he is at risk for getting the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis. How concerned should I be about him sitting on things and being inside the house? It seems impossible to avoid his poop!!! Isn't there always a little poop on his butt? I don't know how to begin sanitizing my environment and I'm woried about people coming inside my house or car where he has been!!

Sorry this is kinda gross! . . .

2) We were slow to keep him groomed and some dried poop accumulated on his butt. He hopped on top of our kitchen counter and sat on it. I sprayed it down with "scrubbing bubbles" disinfectant, but unfortunately I just let the disinfectant evaporate without wiping the surface down. I read somewhere that chemicals do not kill the parasite. Cooked dinner a few days later on the surface and I realize that us and our dinner guests could have ingested it. Do you think I should warn them that they may have been exposed?

3) Is it true that the poop is only dangerous for the first few weeks after a cat is infected?

4) Unfortunately, the parasite can live in the poop for a year, correct?

You are an angel to read all this!!!

Thank you!!

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Toxoplasmosis is a difficult thing to understand! For that reason, I have tried to explain it in this article: Toxoplasmosis.

I will see if I can specifically address your questions though.

First of all, it is actually very rare for someone to get toxoplasmosis from their cat. By far the most common reason for people to contract this parasite is from eating undercooked meat.

In order for the cat to spread toxoplasmosis to your guests, the following would have to happen:

  • The cat would have had to have eaten an animal infected with toxoplasmosis (such as a mouse) in the previous 5-14 days.

  • It would have to be the first time that the cat ate an infected mouse. Cats only shed toxo cysts the first time that they are infected.

  • The stool would have to have been outside of the cat for 24-48 hours because it takes this long for the cysts to become infective.

  • Stool would have to have been deposited on the counter.

  • That stool would have to be ingested by your guests.

The chances of all of those things happening are REALLY small!

Toxo is actually not terribly dangerous to people, unless you are pregnant. Ingesting toxoplasmosis cysts during pregnancy can have serious consequences to the fetus. If a non pregnant person got toxo, then they would feel like they had a cold/flu with body chills, fever and muscle pain.

In your situation I really would not worry!

Hope that helps, but let me know if you have more questions!

Dr. Marie.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Thank you Dr. Marie!!

We had our cat tested and were relieved that he tested negative.

However, as an outdoor cat we know he could get it in the future. Is the general consensus that it is safe to let outdoor cats inside the house? For them to sit on furniture, etc.?

Also, do you know how long it takes for antibodies to form in the cat? I've heard that the test is not good for "early detection" so I suppose there is a small possibility he contracted shortly before the test, but I'm sure that is extremely unlikely!

Thank you!!

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

I really that you have nothing to worry about. If Parker sits on the furniture, or counters, or anywhere else in your house, it is extremely unlikely that he is going to leave toxoplasmosis behind. I don't know of any vets that caution people not to let outdoor cats come into the house. I might be a little more worried if he was leaving entire bowel movements in the house and you were letting them sit there for 48 hours before cleaning them up. But even would somehow have to ingest part of the bowel movement in order to get infected. AND, he would have to have been recently infected himself by eating raw meat with toxoplasmosis in it.

The test is an antibody test and I don't find it to be too helpful. If a cat is positive on the test, then we don't know if he was infected recently , or years ago. A positive test could mean that he picked up toxo two years ago and is no longer contagious. Remember, they are only contagious for 5-14 days afterwards.

If the test is negative then it could mean that he has never come in contact with toxo, or that he came in contact with it recently but hasn't had a chance to create antibodies yet. I'm not exactly sure on how long it can take for antibodies to be made.

If you were really worried, you could have another test done another week from now. If it was negative then you know that your guests are fine. But, if your concern is for the future, then there is no way of knowing if he has picked up toxo other than to keep testing him every week or two which would be silly.

Really, just cleaning the litter box at least every 24 hours (if he uses a litter box), is good enough prevention.

Dr. Marie.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.