Toxoplasmosis in cats: a silently attacking parasite dangerous for humans as well

Hangai Lilla

2024. February 11 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by the single-celled parasite Toxoplasma gondii. This is one of the most common parasitic diseases, infecting almost all warm-blooded animals, including humans. Unfortunately, cats are essential for the parasite's life cycle, but fortunately, they rarely develop clinical disease.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently identified it as one of the five most neglected parasitic infections. Here is what you should know about the toxoplasmosis in cats.

Spread of infection

Cats can contract the parasite by eating infected rodents, birds, or other small animals, or anything contaminated with another cat’s feces, which is already a carrier of the microscopic parasite. Once a cat is infected, it can shed the parasites for up to 2 weeks. The parasite becomes contagious 1-5 days after being excreted with the cat’s feces into the environment. The parasite can survive for many months in its new environment, contaminating soil, water, fruits and vegetables, sandboxes, grass, litter boxes, in short, any place where the cat has deposited feces as a carrier.

Symptoms of the toxoplasmosis in cats

Most kitties infected with T. gondii show no symptoms. Occasionally, however, clinical disease called toxoplasmosis occurs when the cat’s immune response fails to stop the spread of tachyzoite forms. The disease is more likely to occur in young kittens and animals with compromised immune systems, including those infected with feline leukosis (FeLV) or feline AIDS (FIV).

The most common symptoms of toxoplasmosis are fever, loss of appetite, and lethargy. Other symptoms may occur depending on whether the infection is acute or chronic, and where the parasite is located in the cat’s body. Parasites in the lungs can lead to pneumonia. Infections affecting the liver can cause a yellowish tint on the skin and mucous membranes. Toxoplasmosis can also affect the eyes and central nervous system, causing inflammation in the iris, retina, or in the space between the lens and cornea. It can cause light sensitivity, blindness, coordination disturbances, seizures, or loss of control over defecation and urination, among other symptoms.


Treatment typically involves an antibiotic regimen. It is combined with steroids if significant eye or central nervous system inflammation is present. Ideally, treatment should be started immediately after diagnosis and continued for a few days after symptoms resolve. If there is no clinical improvement within 2-3 days, the diagnosis of toxoplasmosis may be questioned.

The prognosis for diagnosed cats depends on the affected organs or organ systems, the time between infection and treatment, and the initial response to therapy. Cats with central nervous system and eye symptoms typically respond slowly to treatment, but their chances are more favorable. Unfortunately, prognosis is poor for diseases affecting the liver or lungs.


One of the most effective ways to reduce infection is to feed your cat exclusively with commercially prepared dry, canned, or pouched food and completely eliminate raw meats. Indoor cats should stay indoors, or if spending time outdoors, be supervised to avoid contact with small rodents.

It is also recommended to clean the litter box daily, which is particularly important for preventing toxoplasmosis. Wear gloves specifically designated for this task and thoroughly wash hands with disinfectant soap afterward!

Just because your cat may be found to be infected, doesn’t mean your bond with them has to end. The chance of contracting the parasite by touching an infected cat is very small, and even indoor cats have very low chances of becoming carriers.

However, pregnant women and individuals with compromised immune systems require special attention as they are at the greatest risk of toxoplasmosis. If you suspect infection, are planning a baby, or have been diagnosed with an immune system disorder, it is advisable to consult a veterinarian for further guidance!

cat diseases cat litter Health parasites raw meat safe home sick cat symptoms of the disease toxoplasmosis

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