The continued stories in online newspapers about the Toxoplasma gondii parasite and how it can infect people and travel to the brain is harmful to the image of domestic cats. The problem is that the whole thing is being exaggerated and misrepresented. They keep chewing on the same thing, putting a new spin on it and omitting to mention important medical aspects of the disease toxoplasmosis.
I’ll briefly describe the four main facts regarding this parasite and then refer to a couple of recent reports in the press to show you how people who dislike cats are using it to damage the reputation of the cat.
- Cats become infected by eating infected birds, rodents, raw or undercooked pork, beef, mutton and unpasteurised dairy products all of which can contain the toxoplasma organisms.
- People can become infected by eating raw or undercooked pork, beef, mutton and unpasteurised dairy products all of which can contain the toxoplasma organisms.
- The feces of infected cats contain Toxoplasma gondii oocysts that can infect people by being in direct contact with it.
- “The majority of human cases – by a wide margin – come from eating raw or undercooked meat, particularly lamb or pork” – Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook.
To recap most people get the infection because of what they do in relation to what they eat. This page expands on the above.
The Distorted Facts
Yet, this is almost completely ignored by Tory Shephard in his (her?) article: Cat poo contains a common bug that may be controlling your mind in The Australian.
Tory kicks off by saying
“Are you a cat person? Maybe it’s time to consider getting a dog. A parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, hangs out in cat poo and can easily infect humans – in fact up to half of us may already be infected with it”
Well it can’t “easily infect humans” and by far the biggest reason why half of us may be infected is because we eat food that we have prepared inadequately. It is nothing to do with cats.
This author goes on to say the parasite can make a person mad or behave strangely. He is more or less saying that your cat can make you mad. This is a gross misrepresentation of the facts.
Another example is the article OMG! Cat poop can control your mind in the Daily Bhaskar.
I won’t go into detail on that one but suffice to say it is biased and scaremongering. I don’t like to see journalists damaging the image of the domestic cat. This is serious stuff. Words can change people’s perceptions.
I don’t know how to stop this happening. But stop it must.