Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The truth about cats and toxoplasmosis

There has been a flurry of articles in the media about the results of a recent study, which indicated that Toxoplasma gondii is linked to mental illness and suicide. Susan Logan of Cat Fancy states that the reporting about this study is an example of bad journalism.

Logan adds that using scare tactics in headlines and slanting the stories to gain the most internet traffic doesn't help and can only hurt in this situation. Here is her take on the study as reported on

The T. Gondii Study

“First of all, the actual study does not suggest that cats cause women to commit suicide. Other studies have shown, quite the contrary, that cats and other pets are good for our self-esteem, lower our blood pressure, help us recover from heart attacks and might prevent them in the first place, and give people something to live for. People, including women and children, who might benefit from having a cat could be harmed from this bad journalism.”

The Toxo Truth

“The truth about cats and toxoplasmosis is that felines do shed in their feces the T. gondii parasite’s eggs, but only for a few days out of the cat’s entire lifetime. So the chances of contracting the infection from cat feces are extremely slim. And, it takes at least 24 hours for the eggs to become infectious after the cat defecates, so if you clean your litterbox every day, you reduce even more your chances of contracting it from the cat’s feces. To become infected from your kitty’s litterbox, your hands would have to come into contact with the feces and then you would have to handle food without washing your hands. That sounds disgusting and anyone with common sense would wash their hands after scooping a litterbox, especially if they’re going to handle food immediately afterward.”

Real Help to Fight Toxoplasmosis

“The real damage these poorly reported stories do is they don’t help pregnant women and immune-compromised people avoid T. gondii infection. You are much more likely to become infected with toxoplasmosis after handling raw meat or gardening with your hands in the dirt. Prevent infection by washing your hands with hot soapy water after handling raw meat, gardening or cleaning the litterbox, and sanitize all kitchen items that come into contact with raw meat during food preparation. It’s really that simple.”

For more information about cats and toxoplasmosis, visit


  1. I'm happy to see this posted. I saw something about this study recently in another blog or maybe it was on facebook, anyway, it's nice to have an unbiased report on things. I thought the original post was only a scare tactic also. I've had a cat in the house for 55 years and have no thoughts of suicide. I just practice good hygiene after cleaning a litter box and go on with my day.

  2. I saw this story on NPR with a scary headline. Of course, half way down the page they reported that this virus is most likely to be caused by people handling raw food and there's a very low incidence of people catching it from cats.

    And NPR is supposedly one of the less sensational news organizations. Just ridiculous reporting.

    Thanks for posting about this.

  3. Terrific post and great information. The major media outlets like to put a "scare" into people. Grabs their attention and attracts viewers. What does it matter if the news in inaccurate or sensationalized....Thank you!

  4. I also agree this is a great post, and I too am tired of people out there spouting something along the lines of all cats have it and will give it to you if you aren't vigilant enough.

    sensational headlines are cheap and easy. They get people to click and take in bits and pieces of info and thus the cycle continues.

  5. How can they get away with such a slanted story, and a headline like that? Wouldn't the responsible thing be to start out with a cautionary note and information on how the disease is transmitted?

  6. My human says go veg, don't garden and enjoy your loving relationships with cats!

    We read the article in Atlantic. It was a good article that didn't deserve the misleading headline focusing on cats.

  7. Thanks for posting this. We thought the story bad journalism too.

  8. Thank you for posting this sensational headlines and sloppy reporting are getting to be the norm sadly.

  9. There are two simple answers to all these concerns:
    1. Gloves
    2. Soap and Water
    Thank you for cutting through the fog of fear to point out the simple, shining answers.
    There seems to be in human nature a desire to oppose or attack cats. I think it's linked to uneasiness about women, particularly independent women. The stereotype of the spinster/witch with cats as magical familiars seems to be deeply ingrained in human culture. I hope eventually this unspoken bias will fade away as women achieve positions of equal power in society.