An important fact and reminder after celebrating Endangered Species day last Friday:
A parasite called Toxoplasma gondii can infect many types of animals with toxoplasmosis, a scary infection that attacks the immune system, brain, and central nervous system. This parasite is very common, which is intriguing because it can only reproduce in a catʼs digestive system. After a cat poops, the fertilized T. gondii eggs can survive in various environments for months, and millions of these eggs can come from a single cat.
When cat poop gets spread through the environment and begins traveling through waterways, animals (including birds, humans, and marine mammals) may inadvertently consume the eggs and become infected. For marine mammals, such as the sea otter (Enhydra lutris) on the east Pacific coast and the Hawaiian monk seal (Neomonachus schauinslandi) in Hawaii, this is a huge problem! For Hawaiian monk seals, a critically endangered species, toxoplasmosis is lethal and is a slow, often painful death and has taken the lives of 12 seals, which is a large number when we consider there are only 300 of these animals in the main Hawaiian islands.
So, if you love cats, and you love wildlife, dispose of cat feces appropriately, keep your kitties inside, and support the control of feral cat populations.
Sketch and fact contributed by Karli Chudeau
[Edited by Adrian Perez]
Source: Honnold, S. P., Braun, R., Scott, D. P., Sreekumar, C., & Dubey, J. P. (2005). Toxoplasmosis in a Hawaiian monk seal (Monachus schauinslandi). Journal of Parasitology, 91(3), 695-697.