Cats may make for great
YouTube videos, but if you’re pregnant or have young kids, they could also be a
hidden health danger. Not the cats themselves exactly, but what they leave in
their litter box.
So warn two doctors who say cat
poop could be a “vast and underappreciated” public health threat. And they
don’t say this lightly, but after tons of research—some of which was just
published in the medical journal Trends
The doctors in question are
Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, executive director of the Stanley Medical
Research Institute in Chevy Chase, Md., and Dr. Robert Yolken, director of
the Stanley Neurovirology Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University School of
Medicine in Baltimore.
“Some cat poop contains Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite for which cats and
other felines are the definitive host,” they told CNN. “This parasite can affect the fetus if a woman
becomes infected while pregnant. That is why pregnant women are warned against
changing cat litter.”
But how big
is the risk? The doctors estimate that one percent of cats are infected, and
that the oocysts in the feces can survive in moist soil for 18
months or longer. Plus, research suggests that it only takes one oocyst to
infect a human.
The good news?
Cats that are always indoors aren’t the problem. It’s outdoor cats. Cat owners
should put their cat litter in the garbage verses flushing it down the toilet,
where it can enter the local water supply. And since cats love relieving
themselves on loose dirt or sand, parents should cover children’s sandboxes
when not in use. Gardeners should wear gloves and wash vegetables thoroughly.