Chain of cat feces can harm humans, sea otters
A young cat can shed up to 100 million oocysts -- little egg-like structures -- in its feces.
February 19th, 2012
08:28 PM ET

Chain of cat feces can harm humans, sea otters

There's more to cat excrement than meets the eye, and it may have the potential to cause disease in sea otters and humans alike.

A young cat can shed up to 100 million oocysts - little egg-like structures - in its feces. All it takes is one oocyst to cause an infection of Toxoplasma gondii.

Largely, the parasite is asymptomatic in humans, but it can sometimes cause problems for infants born to infected mothers - including hearing loss, mental disability and blindness. People with compromised immune systems, especially those who have HIV/AIDS, may also develop serious complications.

Researchers are trying to understand why marine mammals in the Pacific Northwest started dying of protozoal diseases starting in 2000; before then, there weren't any  documented cases, but samples from the Pacific Northwest have found a rate of about 4% of protozoal disease among stranded animals, says Michael Grigg, investigator at the National Institutes of Health.

Grigg and other experts discussed these issues Sunday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Vancouver.

Cat feces may be part of the explanation, the scientists said.

When humans settle near shorelines, that can accentuate land-to-sea pollution. The toxoplasma gondii oocysts from cats can get into the ocean through storm runoff. From there, it can get into mussels and other bivalves that sea otters eat, for example. Humans who eat raw shellfish may likewise be at risk.

Up to 25% of Americans are infected with toxoplasmosis, and in some parts of Europe it's as much as 50%, Grigg said. Humans carry it throughout their lives. It's not known why there are more people who have the infection in Europe, although dietary habits (eating raw meat/fish) be a factor.

There are also strains of this parasite in nature in French Guiana and Suriname that are lethal to people, Grigg said.

Over the past few years,  scientists have been investigating a new form of Toxoplasma gondii ominously called Type X. It was first discovered in sea otters, and it's a combination of the familiar Type II strain and a unique strain of the parasite. It's unclear whether Type X is more serious than Type II, but Type X represents about 40% of infections.

In the few cases where Type X has been found in humans, it was problematic, but there were other immune system compromising factors - one patient was elderly, and one had had a transplant of some kind, Grigg said.

Toxoplasma gondii oocysts can't be destroyed with ultraviolet light or chlorine bleach - only freezing or boiling can kill them, Grigg said. For instance, there was a big outbreak in 1995 in Victoria, British Columbia, likely because the municipal water system was using unfiltered water.

Not all cats have toxoplasmosis, but a large majority do get infected, Grigg said. And they only secrete oocysts when they're young. But if 10% of the 86 million cats owned as pets in the U.S. were infected, that's still a whole lot of little parasite-infecting eggs.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't eat shellfish at all. Pay attention to to where it's harvested and when, says Melissa Miller of the Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center in California. But there could be issues with raw or undercooked foods of all kinds, including shellfish. "There's far more that we don't know than we know," she told reporters.

There's ongoing research into a Toxoplasma gondii vaccine for cats, although one is not available yet.

In the meantime, you can take some precautions to prevent parasites from your cat's litter from getting into the water. Miller says she picks out the poop from the litter box and puts it into plastic bags and sends it to an approved landfill. Miller says she also keeps her cats indoors.

And even though parasites can recombine into different parasites, Grigg says we shouldn't be worried about a new toxoplasma parasite that's truly catastrophic to the human species.

"What we would expect is that nature will sort out what’s the right fit, the strain that doesn’t cause too much disease and can be maintained in nature," Grigg told CNN. "I don’t think there’s some big pathogenic strain that’s going to emerge and kill a lot of people."

soundoff (283 Responses)
  1. Rod C. Venger

    So my cats could be the answer to the gay plague? Cool.

    February 19, 2012 at 22:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Texas Bo

      Rod C. Venger – Genius.


      February 19, 2012 at 22:52 | Report abuse |
    • MD

      No, but hopefully your cats will kill your stupid ass and spare the rest of us your idiocy.

      February 19, 2012 at 23:02 | Report abuse |
    • Steph

      Hopefully your cat will spread some crap around your house first.

      February 19, 2012 at 23:33 | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      @Rod; excellent reply. lol

      February 19, 2012 at 23:36 | Report abuse |
    • pastmorm

      The only plague that needs to be gotten rid of is your Rod sucker.

      February 19, 2012 at 23:41 | Report abuse |
    • sam

      Another pathetic willfully ignorant American. Go to Wikipedia and get informed. Duumb azz

      February 19, 2012 at 23:47 | Report abuse |
    • aiquoy

      hmm, methinks you've all been trolololed

      February 20, 2012 at 01:05 | Report abuse |
    • RusTnuts

      Another fine reason to exterminate these filthy nuisances their irresponsible bambist owners call fur people.

      I hear the lilly family of flowers will cure this issue in your cats if it ingests just a small amount. Good to know!

      February 20, 2012 at 01:32 | Report abuse |
    • ctguy59

      I agree, rod !!!

      February 20, 2012 at 03:48 | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      Just think- after you cat goes in the litter box and gets a little poop on its paws and then curls up on your pillow after fluffing it up with it's paws. That's what they do and that's why I would never own a cat.

      February 20, 2012 at 08:22 | Report abuse |
    • DB

      You probably missed the part "problems for infants born to infected mothers – including hearing loss, mental disability and blindness." Parents had a cat too?

      February 20, 2012 at 08:50 | Report abuse |
    • Marion

      Kevin.....that is not why you won't own a cat. You won't own a cat because you HATE CATS......and this article gives you the excuse you need.

      February 20, 2012 at 09:47 | Report abuse |
    • rob jack

      Wow, what a horrible person you are.

      February 20, 2012 at 10:08 | Report abuse |
  2. carm

    Just don't eat the stuff.

    February 19, 2012 at 22:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. puzzler125

    Rod C. Venger I can't believe you used that term. This is 2012 and HIV/AIDS affects everyone from babies to politicians to sports figures to mothers to fathers and perhaps someone in your own family. Would you really call a disease one of your family members has by that stupid name? Yeah, frankly, you in your ignorance probably would.

    February 19, 2012 at 22:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • MaryInBoise

      I agree wholeheartedly, but it's pointless to feed the troll. Just flag his comment and move on.

      February 20, 2012 at 03:19 | Report abuse |
  4. j

    cats su c k

    February 19, 2012 at 22:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • cindy

      No they don't. People who live near the beach and flush their cats' litter stink, though. People who don't clean up after their dogs also stink.
      My cats are indoor-outdoor but do their business in their litter boxes.

      February 20, 2012 at 00:35 | Report abuse |
    • Karl

      cindy, if all cat shiit went to a water treatment system this would not be a problem, just like human waste. The article talks about storm water runoff. Stray or feral cats are more than likely infected and their litter box is the world.

      February 20, 2012 at 09:02 | Report abuse |
    • Marion

      Feral cats bury their feces, just as a cat in a litter box does. Maybe they know something we don't know. This ridiculous article is talking about how they THINK this disease is getting into the OCEAN

      February 20, 2012 at 10:35 | Report abuse |
    • kat

      lol@ cindy! Cats don't need ANYONE owning them! I always thought pet owning was sort of weird- you're essentially enslaving an animal, that is perfectly capable of taking care of itself, in order to squelch your own loneliness.

      February 21, 2012 at 23:28 | Report abuse |
  5. Texas Bo

    And yes, this is why I do not, and will not have cats.

    February 19, 2012 at 22:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Les

      Seeing that it is also in humans, I choose to not have people. There really is little difference except people chatter louder and longer than cats.

      February 19, 2012 at 23:08 | Report abuse |
    • Les

      And people need bigger litter boxes.

      February 19, 2012 at 23:13 | Report abuse |
    • Vlad the Impaler

      Humans are the more disgusting, filthy species, especially Texans. I prefer to live with cats.

      February 19, 2012 at 23:34 | Report abuse |
    • cindy

      Cats don't need people like you owning them.

      February 20, 2012 at 00:36 | Report abuse |
    • Todd

      So I SHOULDN'T use Gritty Kitty Kitty Litter in casseroles, for those unexpected guests?

      February 20, 2012 at 00:40 | Report abuse |
    • Leif

      Ignorant people are the problem, not cats. So, it's a good thing you don't own one.

      February 20, 2012 at 02:55 | Report abuse |
    • Katie

      You probably have a dog though, and don't think twice about allowing it to poop wherever and leave it for someone else to clean up. Cat owners, like cats, tend to be very tidy about the waste. Dog owners, however, will take their dogs to beaches, public parks, school yards, cemeteries, and praise their doggies for a nice dump and then just walk on, leaving the steaming pile behind.

      February 20, 2012 at 10:15 | Report abuse |
    • Tom, Long Beach, California

      Katie, thanks for that stereotypical jaded view of dog owners.....I have both and pick after both.....being s a surfer, do not want any of that in the water I surf in, but that's where it will go if left......

      February 20, 2012 at 12:47 | Report abuse |
  6. Thom

    And.........................does this mean we now exterminate all cats? And when the landfills fill, what then? And seeing how cats are roaming animals, are we expected to keep all cats indoors? And when the rodent population explodes for lack of cats doing what nature intended? And instead of relating the cause of oocysts, we just kill off those who are the unfortunate and unintended carriers? So, another slow news day at CNN?

    February 19, 2012 at 22:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • cindy

      To VLAD~
      Oops. I mis-read your post. Sorry. You love cats!!! 🙂

      February 20, 2012 at 00:40 | Report abuse |
    • Marion

      You show your ignorance when you say: "are we expected to keep all cats indoors?". YES, YES, YES. duh! If not for the spread of diseases (cat diseases not effecting humans) from one cat to another, but for the safety of your pet. Would you let your dog run loose? I would bet not.

      February 20, 2012 at 09:55 | Report abuse |
    • Thom

      You obviously are a city dweller who has no idea about the purpose of cats. Read the next line of my statement about rodents. Cats take care of minimizing the rodent population; when rodent populations run unabated, watch what happens. Read what happened in Britain in 2010 when humans couldn't/wouldn't clean up their garbage. If you say that poisoning rodents will take care of it, remember that cats EAT rodents, therefore removing the carcass. If poisoned rodents are just left to die, what happens with the carcass? Breeding ground for what ever in a decaying carcass. Oh, yum for them, more disease for us.

      February 20, 2012 at 12:46 | Report abuse |
  7. garwin1

    Cat poop will put the hurt on your nose.

    February 19, 2012 at 22:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. smithapple

    Only liberals own cats... disgusting.

    February 19, 2012 at 22:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kat

      Cats outnumber dogs as pets in America. They have for years. I am a liberal and own both a dog and a cat. Naturally, a Republican might not appreciate the independent nature of a cat.

      February 19, 2012 at 23:52 | Report abuse |
    • Franny

      Only Liberals own cats? Well, I say Thank God, because we know most Conservatives are Rats! I love my Cats, but I'm no liberal, and that makes your assessment incorrect! How will we ever move forward with such ignorance in this Country? It's terrifying!

      February 20, 2012 at 08:37 | Report abuse |
    • Marion

      Franny, I am way more terrified by ignorant humans than any animal on earth....especially conservative humans.

      February 20, 2012 at 10:00 | Report abuse |
    • Katie

      That must mean dog owners are Republicans. Now I know who to blame for all the dog poop left by all the lazy dog owners. Cat owners don't take their pets to the beaches, public parks, cemeteries, and school yards just so their pets can leave their droppings for someone else to deal with, but dog owners do.

      February 20, 2012 at 10:19 | Report abuse |
    • Kathy

      Obama has a dog. So much for your "words of wisdom". I personally love my indoor, great companion cats. And the same holds true for my canine, fun loving members of my family. BTW I am a conservative. "gasp, oh the horror!". LOL. Also work at a shelter for cats. Trying to place them in worthy homes. Making a difference one cat a time.

      February 20, 2012 at 10:56 | Report abuse |
    • Thom

      I'm a somewhat conservative and I have three cats in my house; all strays who adopted us, all of whom are neutered, all of whom are up to date on their shots, all of whom are very well loved. Hmmm, time to rethink you theory.

      February 20, 2012 at 12:51 | Report abuse |
    • urouttolunch


      February 20, 2012 at 22:20 | Report abuse |
  9. ohsnap

    cats are just nasty

    February 19, 2012 at 23:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • pastmorm

      Not as nasty as your sorry a*s ohsnap

      February 19, 2012 at 23:42 | Report abuse |
    • Neerka

      Agreed. No mix human/pets.

      February 20, 2012 at 00:22 | Report abuse |
    • Franny

      Not nearly as nasty as many people!

      February 20, 2012 at 08:38 | Report abuse |
    • prescious

      I once saw a cat do its business in a sandbox–thoroughly disgusted. But then i saw a dog come along, dig it up and eat it.

      February 20, 2012 at 09:04 | Report abuse |
    • Marion

      Precious: cats are the cleanest animals on earth......much cleaner than humans. Dogs just love dirt. I love dogs, but would rather own a low maintenance cat.

      February 20, 2012 at 10:04 | Report abuse |
  10. jon

    My cats can destroy an entire species? If so that is freakin awesome. I'm like the grim reaper or something.

    February 19, 2012 at 23:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. kleptiko

    As a cat, I can say truthfully that I am offended by this piece, which raises outlandish fears and defames our entire race. Those bits about people with compromised immune systems is irrelevant; leave such people out in the cold and the cold will get them. My lawyer is filing suit and I expect millions of us will be named as plaintiffs. Have a pleasant day and where's my kibble.

    February 19, 2012 at 23:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • captain obvious

      "cat" is not a race...it is a species

      February 20, 2012 at 00:35 | Report abuse |
    • Woodsman

      Yes, it's blatant catism. Those evil catists are the root of all that is wrong in the world. (sarc, for those of you who are wondering)

      February 20, 2012 at 01:14 | Report abuse |
    • Marion

      Captain Obvious: I guess you go around stating the obvious in all your posts, huh?

      And yes, Woodsman, we know you are being sarcastic, but there IS BLATANT "CATISM" in the world. This just gives one more reason for cat "haters" to say why they hate cats. Look at the way cats are always portrayed in movies and cartoons....as vicious, nasty, and basically "out of control". They are "out of control" of humans....who want every animal to be submissive to them. And THAT is why so many people claim to "hate" cats. This article just gives them the excuse they need to justify hatred for an animal. Kleptiko, my two cats Bitsy and Isobel will be joining you in the lawsuit. LOL.

      February 20, 2012 at 10:25 | Report abuse |
    • urouttolunch

      My Chazzie will be proud to join the suit. And – captain obvious – although I grant you that felis domesticus is a species, the feline race is every bit as real as the human race.

      February 20, 2012 at 22:31 | Report abuse |
  12. rebar

    If your cat was 150 pounds bigger, it would kill and eat you.

    February 19, 2012 at 23:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rebar

      Unless you had a 150 pound dog to protect you.

      February 19, 2012 at 23:36 | Report abuse |
    • Hellifuknow

      Pound for pound, cats are far deadlier than dogs. A 150lb feline would eat a 150lb dog for lunch, then have you for desert.

      February 20, 2012 at 03:29 | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Yeah... that's why I have a house cat and not a tiger as a pet.

      February 20, 2012 at 11:41 | Report abuse |
    • urouttolunch

      only if I behaved like an a$$, which I imagine you do.

      February 20, 2012 at 22:35 | Report abuse |
  13. furdawg

    It's nice to read these idiotic responses. I find stupidity very exciting. And I'm excited all day long.

    February 19, 2012 at 23:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. pastmorm

    Who wrote this? A dog person obviously. Seriously...we've lived with cats over 40 thousand years (don't tell a christian that...since they think it's just around 7 thousand years since the earth was created.

    February 19, 2012 at 23:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kat

      Please don't lump all "Christians" as right-wingers. I am a Christian and a Democrat and I believe in evolution. Evolution IS intelligent design.

      February 19, 2012 at 23:54 | Report abuse |
    • A

      I'm a Christian and believe the earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old. Don't judge.

      February 20, 2012 at 01:57 | Report abuse |
  15. Wherestherest?

    So much more interesting info (IMO) was in the 2 page article in atlantic monthly (goog).
    It cited the possibility of altering human behavior and was 100 times more mindblowing.

    February 19, 2012 at 23:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Erleichda

      I think it's already been done. Just as a rat will seek out cat urine, Republicans will vote against their own best interests.

      February 20, 2012 at 01:55 | Report abuse |
  16. pastmorm

    Frankly I'd be glad to see a plague started by just about any animal to cut down the nasty human race by at least half. It would be a better world!

    February 19, 2012 at 23:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Woodsman

      So make the world a better place. Put your money where your mouth is. Or better yet, put the muzzle of a weapon where your mouth is.

      February 20, 2012 at 01:17 | Report abuse |
    • Woodsman

      Or is it just "others' that you want to see dead?

      February 20, 2012 at 01:22 | Report abuse |
    • A

      I'm glad to see you volunteer to be first, yes?

      February 20, 2012 at 01:58 | Report abuse |
  17. James

    Poop is bad for you, who knew?

    February 19, 2012 at 23:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. T3chsupport

    Don't tell your cats about this. It's too much power.

    February 19, 2012 at 23:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Joker429

    Cat people are some of the weirdest on earth. Seems like you have to have some real emotional issues to have a cat for a pet.

    February 19, 2012 at 23:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Martina

      Seems like one has to have some serious emotional issues to say what you just said.

      February 20, 2012 at 00:09 | Report abuse |
    • A

      Actually you just have to have a life. It's much easier to leave a cat alone for extended periods of time while you work during the day and be social in the evenings. Dogs are way too needy, like having a child.

      February 20, 2012 at 01:59 | Report abuse |
    • urouttolunch

      well, actually, you have to be pretty emotionally stable. A cat won't kiss up to you like a dog does. I have both, and I love them both. A dog really does love unconditionally. Even if they have been abused, they are totally amazing. And in a loving home, they are completely over the top. A cat isn't into that fuzzy crud. They are very clear about our shortcomings. If you can't deal with being reminded that you ARE NOT PERFECT, don't have a cat in your life.

      February 20, 2012 at 22:49 | Report abuse |
  20. Julie

    Ohhh I wish I hadn't read this. :\

    February 19, 2012 at 23:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. David

    Very enlightening article. Just the other day I heard my cat say "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds".

    February 19, 2012 at 23:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. moribundman

    Hmm, 25% of Americans are infected with oocysts? And we worry about cats? Don't defecate on the beach, folks! 😛

    February 19, 2012 at 23:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • David

      They should be called poocysts.

      February 19, 2012 at 23:56 | Report abuse |
  23. John

    Oh great, now terrorists are going to mail cat feces.

    February 19, 2012 at 23:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • L C B

      Thanx for the best chuckle material of my day!

      February 20, 2012 at 00:16 | Report abuse |
  24. doug

    With all the species we've sent to extinction, why not cats too?
    Extinct the cats!

    February 20, 2012 at 00:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Neerka


      February 20, 2012 at 00:24 | Report abuse |
    • urouttolunch

      extinct the doug

      February 20, 2012 at 22:51 | Report abuse |
  25. Lila

    The article states HUMANS have it too and since our waste gets dumped in the oceans. So, how are cats getting blamed? There are some weird humans that kill and eat all sort of things, more likely that's where it got started. The amount of outdoor cats droppings vs all wildlife is tiny in comparison, look at the amount of birds alone.

    February 20, 2012 at 00:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • the article did not say...

      the article did not say that T. Gondii can only reproduce in cat intestines. humans have it but can't spread it. cats can spread live oocysts

      February 20, 2012 at 00:47 | Report abuse |
    • Lila

      First, if only cats can spread live oocyst, how does "it it can get into mussels and other bivalves" then spread to people who eat it? Second, according to this article this issue wasn't a problem prior to 2000, there are less outside cats than prior decades, indoor cats is more popular today. The cat link, even according to this article, is a stretch. There is something else going on. Human waste especially considering how much Americans are on some type of medication is far more dangerous to sea life than a few cats. Here's a better angle, let's stop dumping our sewers into the ocean.

      February 20, 2012 at 01:15 | Report abuse |
  26. doug

    Extinct the cats! It's their turn.

    February 20, 2012 at 00:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • urouttolunch

      no, yours

      February 20, 2012 at 23:01 | Report abuse |
  27. Martina

    This is a one crazy and stupid article. Just think about all the pollution and diseases that humans spread to each other, and to other species. And those are not just dangerous to the immunocompromised.

    February 20, 2012 at 00:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. logicnothuff

    I am a Republican .... and I own a cat. And I love the little fellow, and he loves me and my family. Other than the fact that he destroys the furniture with his sawblade claws, he's a good cat. He keeps pesky rodents from setting up shop. God created cats as well as mankind and we each have our role.

    February 20, 2012 at 00:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Neerka

    This is CATastrophic.

    February 20, 2012 at 00:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. NeekNaak

    I read this somewhere as a kid but haven't seen the literature since. Seeing the amount of cat lovers I thought I might have misread something. Now, I see it again. It was the only reason I stayed away from cats.

    February 20, 2012 at 00:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • urouttolunch

      are you a pregnant woman who doesn't wash your hands?

      February 20, 2012 at 23:02 | Report abuse |
  31. cityguy

    Thats the LAST time I let my cats go into the sea... I swear!

    February 20, 2012 at 01:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Stephane

    I would suggest the litter box alternative "litter quitter" should be removed from retail sales. It is a product designed to train cats to use the toilet instead of litter boxes. So their poop gets flushed instead of ending up in landfills......Convenient for the cat owner but it adds cat poopto the sewage treatment process.

    February 20, 2012 at 01:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • USE LOGIC!

      What part of "humans get this parasite too" do you have a problem with comprehending? Play with your cat's poop, you're going to have an increased chance of catching it yourself. AND THEN THE OTTERS WILL GET IT ANYWAY. Or – we could just start treating our waste water CORRECTLY, instead. What a frigging thought – TREAT THE WATER.

      February 20, 2012 at 01:50 | Report abuse |
  33. jsnight

    So now we know. Poop can be dangerous. How much did this study cost the taxpayers? What do you suppose the sign " Wash hands after using restroom means" Now to a really import issue. Some people with the IQ of a flea feed cats coffee beans, run them through the animal's digestive tract, boil, and serve as very expensieve coffee. Nothing is too good for the "in crowd". Let's have an entree of dog poop, followed by a deseart of cat poop coffee and cow pie. Are people just nuts?

    February 20, 2012 at 01:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. scir91onYouTube

    type jocelyn wildenstein in youtube and see what happens to cat "lovers"

    February 20, 2012 at 01:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. USE LOGIC!

    Getting all strung out over your cat's poop is ridiculous. If your cat has it – YOU HAVE IT. Play with your cat's poop all you like, YOURS is still going down the drain and infecting sea otters. IF THIS WAS SUCH A THREAT – then why aren't we treating our waste water to kill the parasite? Oh yeah, that's right... It'd COST too much. So then stop whining about sea otters then. If they mattered, you'd pay. Cuz not treating the water is what the problem is – not cat poop.

    February 20, 2012 at 01:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • urouttolunch


      February 20, 2012 at 23:06 | Report abuse |
  36. Ariana

    Let's get something right, people do not secrete this Toxoplasma parasite, only cats do. The parasite can, and does, infect any animal, including people, where it sets up a life-long chronic infection. The eggs shed in the kitty litter are not the problem, its the cats who shed outside that are contaminating the oceans when the eggs are washed to the sea after storms. So sea otters are just accidental victims, and the more cats there are, the more "eggs" there are, and it only takes a few to get infected.

    February 20, 2012 at 02:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Marion

      All cats, feral included, BURY THEIR FECES. Maybe they know something we don't know.

      Also, most people reading this article don't seem to read the part that says "young cats" spread this disease in their feces....not when they get older. So if you have a kitten....keep that litter box really clean. Cats of all ages HATE stepping in their own poop.

      February 20, 2012 at 10:47 | Report abuse |
  37. chris

    What a bunch of crap. Must have been a slow news day. Cat fossil records go back about 12 million years. Cats were domesticated about 9000 years ago. How the heck did humans get this far if this were a problem. This article could be summed up in the last sentence: "I don’t think there’s some big pathogenic strain that’s going to emerge and kill a lot of people." Sadly, the media must think a lot of people are naive or just plain stupid.

    February 20, 2012 at 02:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Natalie

      I have Toxo and what they forgot to tell you is that if you let the poo dry up it gets in the air so if you change the litter box regularly you are fine. Also you can get Toxo from under cooked meat, it can be in your water, It's also in the dirt!

      To those people who hate cats! Did you know that it was because of all the people killing cats that rats were over populating in Europe? The fleas were biting the rats and then biting the humans, that was what caused the Bubonic plague that killed over half of europe!

      February 20, 2012 at 09:06 | Report abuse |
    • nornd

      I can't believe the paranoia I am reading here. Every animal (including humans) carry some sort of parasite or potential for disease, not just cats. It's up to us, with our supposedly superior gift for reasoning, to find out how these diseases work. Most adult cats are of NO danger, because they are immune by the time they are around one year old. Kittens, however, carry some threat because they are likely to come into conttct with oocysts and be shedding in their first year. so pregnant women should NOT be around kittens and their poos.
      The biggest threat to acquiring Toxoplasmosis is by eating meat; and I haven't heard a single mention of this, just an awful lot of paranoia and misguided and ignorant talk about cats.

      April 3, 2012 at 15:43 | Report abuse |
  38. Relictus

    So ... I should not eat cat poo? Got it.

    February 20, 2012 at 07:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. wendy5

    cats are dirty filty rodents; my girlfriend ended up the hospital when her cat bite her finger she had to have surgey and antibiotics in hospital for weeks and now has a deformed finger; read john bitner cat and mouse and breast cancer theory food for thought now i read this ; hate them even more

    February 20, 2012 at 07:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Anne

    Is this suppose to be something new? For years they've warned pregnant women to stay away from the cat's litter box. I've owned cats all of my life, which is 70 yrs. So it's suppose to be 4% that kills the otters, what does the remaining 96% contain? Right now I'd take my chances with my cats. I would be more worried about those scientists that developed that virus that can kill millions. I'll take my chances with my cats. Oh and by the way also have had cats and dogs at the same times.

    February 20, 2012 at 07:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Franny

      Anne, I like the way you think. Don't you wish Politicians could get along as well as cats, and dogs? Cats are smarter, but dogs are more loyal. I do love most all animals, and find them more entertaining than people. In all honesty? I like them more than most people.

      February 20, 2012 at 08:45 | Report abuse |
  41. Natalie

    I have Toxo and what they forgot to tell you is that if you let the poo dry up it gets in the air so if you change the litter box regularly you are fine. Also you can get Toxo from under cooked meat, it can be in your water, It's also in the dirt!

    To those people who hate cats! Did you know that it was because of all the people killing cats that rats were over populating in Europe? The fleas were biting the rats and then biting the humans, that was what caused the Bubonic plague that killed over half of europe!

    February 20, 2012 at 09:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Wastrel

    This article is mostly information that's been around for 40 years or so. One exception is the claim that "[u]p to 25% of Americans are infected with toxoplasmosis," That is surely false, and stated that way to frighten people and make this article "newsworthy." "Up to" 25% includes, of course, 1 or 2 percent and numbers less than 25%. Since toxoplasmosis is seldom tested for, figures are a guess. Even if it is 25%, clearly we tolerate the "infection" well. If 25% of of all babies born were deformed because their mothers were infected, that would be news instead of fearmongering.

    It is the people who present this kind of information as fact that we have to worry about, not cats.

    February 20, 2012 at 09:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • urouttolunch

      amen. +1

      February 20, 2012 at 23:13 | Report abuse |
  43. monah

    I have a septic tank and three cats. Fortunately I keep my cats indoors otherwise my backyard could be full of oocysts! But what about the disposable gloves I wear when I clean the litter box? Oh yeah, I use plastic grocery bags when cleaning the litter boxes and throw the gloves in the bag when I'm done and put it out in the trash can for pick up. Since the bags are not biodegradable I'm saving the ocean and the otters!

    February 20, 2012 at 09:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Marion

      Please take note of the sentence in the article: "Grigg said. And they only secrete oocysts when they're young."

      February 20, 2012 at 09:40 | Report abuse |
    • monah

      I "noted" they only secrete oocyts when they are young when I read the article. I was being facetious. I thought that was pretty obvious in my post.

      February 20, 2012 at 09:47 | Report abuse |
    • monah

      Marion, I forget to point out that my cats where kittens when I got them.

      February 20, 2012 at 09:59 | Report abuse |
    • Marion

      Sorry, Monah, I did not see your "facetiousness" in your post. I was only trying to point out that you continue to be cautious even after your cats are grown and that might not be necessary.

      February 20, 2012 at 10:54 | Report abuse |
    • monah

      I appreciate that your posts are trying to dispel all the hoopla about cat feces and oocysts. I have three cats so I obviously love cats very much and couldn't imagine not having a couple of them in my life. I've had cats all my life and keep them indoors in order to protect them and keep them healthy. But you won't find my cleaning litter boxes without gloves on. Germs are germs whether they are human waste or cat waste.

      February 20, 2012 at 11:40 | Report abuse |
  44. Marion

    That's just great. There aren't enough cat haters out there already. It is irresponsible and fear mongering for Michael Grigg of the NIH to SPECULATE that IF (notice he says "IF") "but if 10% of the 86 million cats owned as pets in the U.S. were infected, that's still a whole lot of little parasite-infecting eggs". And then in next sentence merely cautions against eating shellfish.....and putting the idea in people's heads that this is more than just speculation about how many cats carry this disease. One more reason to scare many pregnant mothers who will think they should not adopt a cat.

    February 20, 2012 at 09:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. rich flay

    Glad I have a dog!

    February 20, 2012 at 09:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Katie

      Dogs carry parasites in their poop too. And many dog owners have no qualms about leaving their dog's poop in public areas where children play and people recreate. You don't see a cat owner taking his pet to a beach and praising it as it takes a dump and then walking away leaving it behind, do you?

      February 20, 2012 at 10:26 | Report abuse |
  46. Portland tony

    Another cat cra* controversy! Where will it end?

    February 20, 2012 at 10:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Harley Lauren

    Stupid story. Any feces can harm humans. The special factor illustrated here has been common knowledge among pregnant women for years. This is another in the constant attempt to ridicule and rid the world of cats by smallish and peevish weaklings. Malcontents who wither under a cats discriminating taste and fail their particularly harsh scrutiny.

    February 20, 2012 at 11:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Julie

    I'm sick of anti-cat propaganda. It's STUPID humans who dump cats thereby causing colonies of sick cats. Cats are domesticated animals. I hate animal abusers, and if I had a say, people would be very seriously prosecuted if caught dumping or harming a cat.

    February 20, 2012 at 11:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • urouttolunch


      February 20, 2012 at 23:17 | Report abuse |
  49. Binky42

    "Cat feces 'may' be harmful to humans. In other news, human beings mess around with nuclear crap that can kill millions at one time." Yeah....I'll take my chances with the cats.

    February 20, 2012 at 12:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • urouttolunch


      February 20, 2012 at 23:18 | Report abuse |
  50. Andrew

    anyone who saw trainspotting should have already known this

    February 20, 2012 at 12:43 | Report abuse | Reply
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