Dangerous Poop: Cat’s versus Human’s

Sewage flowing into a river

Sewage flowing into a river

Are you getting tired of the media’s obsession with the “dangers of cat poop”? Every few months a “staff member” of some online newspaper writes about cat feces and toxoplasmosis.

Almost invariably there is exaggeration and never are the dangers put into context by making a comparison with human poop (or dog poop). I do it on this page. This not a comprehensive list. I am just making a point.

The latest incarnation of the media’s obsession with cat poop comes from the big CNN website. The headline is “Is cat poop dangerous?”

The CNN reporter refers to the work of two scientists who say that it could be a “vast and underappreciated” public health problem.

My comment: the fact is that….

Cats and people eating raw or undercooked meat and unpasteurised milk are the most common ways of getting toxoplasmosis. People with antibodies are probably immune to infection.

The general drift of the CNN page is that the Toxoplasma oocysts in some cat poop could cause health problems. The reporter says that recent studies suggest that people with health problems such as OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), schizophrenia, rheumatoid arthritis or brain tumors are more likely to have antibodies to Toxoplasma gondii than other people. Note the word “suggest”.

I am not going to go over old ground. My assessment of the situation is that cat poop can cause human health problems (rarely) although there is yet to be hard evidence with respect to the health conditions referred to above. Simple precautions can be taken. I cover these on this page.

Let’s compare the “dangers” of human poop to cat poop for fun and to put things into perspective:

 Cat Poop  Human Poop
Can it cause health problems?  Yes  Yes
What can cause the health problems? Toxoplasma oocysts – this is the organism that is always referred to. E. Coli4, Hepatitis A3, Bacteria, Salmonella, Meningitis?, Worms, Parasites, C Diff.
How transmitted to people? Touching the poop and inadvertently ingesting it – i.e. while gardening or cleaning cat litter. (1) The “oral-fecal route” — 26% of people don’t wash their hands after going to the toilet6. They touch things. You touch the same things (2) In the bathroom in the air. Toilet flush sends out particles which can settle on toothbrush etc. and be ingested2 (3) Washing machines harboring germs from clothes that were washed (4) In most countries sewage is discharged into rivers etc without any treatment (5) In some countries people go to the toilet in side streets providing ample opportunity for transmission (6) In Muslim countries the right hand is used for eating. This is an admission that there are germs on the left hand.


 Cat poop is dangerous. So is any other kind of poop. Wash your hands and get on with life.” (Ruth – Monty’s Mom)

 And what about dog poop?

As Ruth says, cats get a bad deal from the press. We rarely read about dog poop causing health problems in humans. Here are some examples of the diseases that can be transmitted to people from dog poop1:

  • Campylobacteriosis – bacteria
  • E. Coli – bacteria
  • Salmonella – bacteria
  • Yersiniosis – bacteria
  • Cyclospora – parasite
  • Cryptosporidium and Giardia – parasite
  • Roundworm – parasite
  • Tapeworms – parasite

Conclusions? It is important that the media present a balanced assessment of health risks from cat feces. That can only done when it is placed in the context of wider health issues. I have only mentioned people poop here as a comparison. There are many other health problems caused by people that affect us all and our cats.


  1. CPHA – Canada’s Public Health Leader
  2. physicsforums.com
  3. ronfez.net
  4. Wikipedia
  5. Picture by faul
  6. thehygienedoctor.co.uk
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Dangerous Poop: Cat’s versus Human’s — 14 Comments

  1. I just think alot of new organisations are big losers looking for stories to fill the pages which should be reporting the important stuff they are not allowed to report. What a bunch of scum.

    • That is the press. I hope people don’t mind me continually defending the cat. I feel I have to. I feel there is a need to. I hope I have not become paranoid about it 😉

  2. Michael I like it that you continually defend the cat, someone else has to besides me in whose eyes cats can do no wrong lol
    Seriously though, the cat haters spread such bad stories of cats and we’ve heard them all before, so why don’t they give it a rest and start on dogs, or like you say, on people, who are much more likely to pass on diseases than cats are? I’ve seen women in public toilets walk past the hand basin and to think they have touched their unmentionable bits, then door handles and then go merrily off to have a meal or do some shopping.
    If we thought about all this too much we’d go insane and wouldn’t dare touch anything we hadn’t anti bacteria wiped first.
    I think we’ve all trod in dog poo which the owner hasn’t picked up, then the shoe is a hotbed of germs. Some people grumble about cats digging in the gardens, well at least they cover their poo up! A child is much more likely to catch something nasty from dog poo lying in the open than cat poo because they would have to dig that up first!
    Life is a risky business but most of us survive it to old age, germs and all, so why don’t the cat haters accept cats are part of life and no more a danger to health than any other species.

    • Thanks Ruth. You’re right. There is far more dog poo lying around in public places and the worst of all is human poo if you take a global view. People should focus on people because it is the easiest way to improve things.

    • They are having a field day with dangerous cat poop then, thanks to the press there will be a spate of idiots who believe everything they read, relinquishing or abandoning their cats and adding to the many already homeless.
      Yes Michael it’s ridiculous!

      • I was shocked and exasperated with the press seeing a long list of articles presented by Google, all copying each other. Not good for the cat-human relationship. And it fuels cat hating.

  3. Why don’t they do stories on how C Diff, a very dangerous bacteria from human poop is not only not killed by alcohol based hand sanitizer it actually thrives on the stuff. Best to wash hands and not rely on sanitizer after using the bathroom. Alcohol causes C Diff to proliferate. Now isn’t that info a person really can use?

    Cat poop is dangerous. So is any other kind of poop. Wash your hands and get on with life.

    • Ruth I didn’t know that about hand gel! I don’t think many people will know so thank you for telling us.
      I have a small hand gel in my bag for when there is no washing facilities so I don’t need it often as most places do have them now, but are you saying it’s better not to use anything than that?
      You are right, wash your hands if you can and get on with life. I have a friend who is so paranoid about germs she won’t even borrow a library book! I think worrying too much can take over your life and as our late mam used to say ‘what will be will be’ she had a saying for every occasion lol

      • C Diff is a bacteria in fecal material. It’s always there, but if it gets to be too much in relation to other bacteria you get explosive diarrhea. These little spores come out and fly around landing everywhere and can survive a very long time. Only bleach for five minutes on surfaces kills the spores. You get a proliferation of C Diff in your intestines through use of antibiotics killing off other bacteria, throwing off the balance of helpful and harmful bacteria, or from a depressed immune system or sometimes otherwise healthy people just get it.

        In most situations hand sanitizer is fine, because most of the time you won’t come in contact with this germ. But it’s in a bathroom where you could find C Diff. Use alcohol and you cause it to proliferate. I wait for hand washing facilities rather than using alcohol hand sanitizer after using a public restroom and I always choose soap and water if given a choice in a barhroom. Since you get it by fecal to oral route don’t eat without washing your hands first. It really all boils down to that. Taking probiotics or eating yogurt can help prevent C Diff, but I don’t know which probiotics would be most effective. An MD or pharmacist would know and could recommend the best choice. Children and the elderly have to ask their doctor before taking probiotics in pill form. You can’t test existing C Diff infection by probiotics alone. If someone suspects they have this infection they have to see a doctor ASAP to avoid spreading it to others.

  4. As long as we’re talking about scary germs, MRSA is a good one, and it’s resistant to everything but sulfa antibiotics. It’s not found in poop. It is considered a “super bug.” It is also more commonly found in schools than hospitals. Why aren’t we hearing about that? When I substitute teach I bring sanitizing wipes and clean as carefully as I would if working in a clinic. Kids spread germs like crazy. Maybe it’s more exciting to create fantasies about the power of cat poop than to deal with real life germs we all might encounter every day. My doctor is concerned that I have a cat because she read that toxoplasmosis can cause suicides and psychosis. Oh just give me a freaking break, it’s all junk science. But dealing with real microbiology is boring. Diarrhea? A wound that won’t heal? Who wants to read about that? Cat poop causing people to go crazy? Ooooooh!!!!
    MRSA and C. Diff are abbreviations we use in healthcare. Both bugs have a longer proper name, one which I didn’t feel like looking up and even if I did, no one would remember it anyway.

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