Toxoplasma Gondii in Cats

Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite that can cause toxoplasmosis. This condition may affect most warm blooded animals, but it's more serious in humans. In cats, the parasites will rarely cause severe effects and the infection can be treated and prevented.

Means of Transmission

The main source of toxoplasma gondii is found in insufficiently cooked meat that contains the parasite. The toxoplasma gondii parasite may be transmitted from other warm blooded animals that are infected. The parasites are typically present in the feces of an infected animal. Once ingested, the parasite will lodge in the pet's intestines and will produce oocysts, which will be shed in the feces and may also infect other animals or humans. These oocysts may survive for several years in an infested environment and are difficult to remove, even with regular household chemicals.

The transmission may also happen through the contact with sand or soil, which may contain animal feces that have T. gondii oocytes. There are also a number of intermediate hosts (birds and rodents) which won't necessarily be affected by the infection, but may infect other animals. The parasite may also be transmitted through the placenta from an infected mother to her kittens. If the infection doesn't happen in utero, it may happen through the milk produced by the mother.

Toxoplasmosis in Cats

The toxoplasma gondii is ingested and may inhabit the intestine of the cat. The disease caused by this parasite is known as toxoplasmosis. In time, the parasite may migrate to the muscles and the brain. The disease may manifest through several symptoms, which are typically nonspecific:

  • Elevated fever
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy and depression

There may also be other symptoms, which will depend on what areas of the body are affected:

  • Eye inflammation and conjunctivitis, if the eye area is affected
  • Pneumonia, if the parasites attack the lungs
  • Arrhythmia if the heart is involved
  • Digestive issues if the parasites attack the digestive system muscles
  • Seizures, vomiting, paralysis and lack of nerve function if the brain is affected

If an infected mother gives birth to kittens, it may happen that some of all of them are stillborn or are severely ill and won't survive.

Cats Prone to Infection

While many cats may carry the parasite and have no symptoms and no severe problems, there are a number of pets that will be more prone to falling severely ill. These pets are typically the kittens, senior cats and the cats that have a suppressed immune system due to:

  • The presence of the feline leukemia virus in the system
  • Feline immunodeficiency virus
  • Feline infectious peritonitis
  • Cats under medication treatment with immunosuppressive medication

Treatment for Toxoplasmosis

The infection can be detected by performing a blood test; a positive test contains the toxoplasma gondii antibodies. If a cat is infected by T. gondii and manifests symptoms, he may need treatment. Antibiotics will be prescribed. Most cats will recover after treatment.