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Is My Cat Driving Me Crazy?

Jul 7, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Personal Opinion


Dear Dr. Brown;

My boyfriend sent me this article today… can you please address when you have a moment?

Many thanks,

Robin : )


Thank you for the question Robin. There have been many sensationalize eye-catching headlines about this (This seems to be the next zombie apocalypse). It is always important to separate the science from the hysteria. No one wants to contract a parasite.

The current literature states that Toxoplasma, defined by NIH and the Mayo Clinic, is of concern only for pregnant women and immune suppressed people. For most everyone else, the infection is latent and does not cause any problems.

There have been 3 recent articles that have fanned fears about toxoplasmosis. We have to remember that the work on this will be continuing and these studies need to be reviewed and duplicated.

  1. The first study is a rat study from Stanford and postulated that Toxoplasmosis can affect the behavior of rats.
    Read the article →
  2. The second study is from the University of Maryland.  It is a retrospective study of 45,000 Danish women and suicide rates.
    Read the article →
  3. The third article is from Atlantic Monthly and it features a Czech biologist who feels that Toxoplasmosis may alter human behavior.  All of these are provocative and make for great headlines.  Time will tell and more study will show if there is a correlation.
    Read the article →

The best way to prevent any problems is to avoid infection:

  • Most people get Toxoplasmosis from improperly cooked meat. The CDC recommends cooking meat properly. I am providing a link to the CDC to help define properly cooked meat.
  • Freezing meet to sub-zero temperatures for several days decreases the chances for infection.
  • Always be sure to peel and wash fruits and vegetable before eating.
  • Be sure to washing cutting boards and utensils with hot soapy water after contact with raw meat, or unwashed fruits or vegetables.
  • Wash your hands frequently.

What about my cat?

If you feed commercially prepared or cooked foods it decreases your cat’s chances of becoming exposed to Toxoplasmosis.  Keeping your cat indoors also decreases his/her chance of acquiring the parasite.

Cats are the definitive host for Toxoplasmosis or to borrow from Dr Robert Yolken from Johns Hopkins University.  The world for the parasite is divided into two parts – Cats and Non-Cats.

Toxoplasma wants to be in cats because it leads its entire lifecycle in cats, but not in non-cats.  Again from Dr Yolken – “Now toxoplasma gets into another animal, it’s still alive, but it’s not very happy. What I’m fond of saying is that it’s kind of like a young person living in New Jersey. The person is alive but perhaps would rather be somewhere else… so in New York City or Philadelphia or Washington. Somewhere…”

My apologies to any readers in the Garden State.

Cats only shed the Toxoplasmosis eggs one week in their entire lives.  The eggs need 48 hours to “hatch”.  Frequent cleaning of the litter box with gloves can help decrease the chance of getting infected.  Washing your hands is very important.

Hopefully some common sense and good hygiene habits will help protect you from many pathogens.  It seems to come down to all the good habits you were taught, as child will help protect you.

Separating the facts from fiction or pseudoscience is very important to eliminate needless fear.

You can read the full NPR interview here.

Dr Marcus Brown

Dr. Brown, founder of the NOVA Cat Clinic and co-founder of the NOVA Cat Clinic, received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 1986 from the University of Illinois. Currently the medical director for Alley Cat Allies and is an active supporter in local, state and national feline organizations such as: American Veterinary Dental Society, American Association of Feline Practitioners, American Veterinary Medical Association and American Animal Hospital Association. Dr. Brown also contributed the creation of the Association of Feline Practitioners’ 2009 Wellness Guidelines for Feline Practitioners.

Dr. Brown enjoys continuing education and regularly attends seminars and conferences across the country focusing on the advancement in feline veterinary care. Dr. Brown also utilizes on-line discussion groups and veterinary networks to assist the clinic in maintaining the highest level of care and providing the newest treatments available in feline medicine.

NOVA Cat Clinic
923 N. Kenmore St.
Arlington VA 22201

Phone: 703-525-1955
Fax: 703-525-1957
Email: novacatclinic@gmail.com

Website: http://novacatclinic.com/
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