Captive Pallas’s cats die of toxoplasmosis

China’s first artificial bred Pallas’s cat dies: In a recent report from China, Sundaniang, the country’s first artificially bred Pallas’s cat (aka manul), died in Qinghai Park. Sundaniang was known for her contribution to scientific research on artificial reproduction and had become a beloved figure through her livestreamed daily activities. She was born on May 7, 2021.

Unfortunately, she succumbed to pyometra, a severe infection of the uterus, which is particularly dangerous during estrus, a phase of heightened fertility. She died at the age of three in Qinghao last Sunday, according to the Qinghai-Xizang plateau wild zoo.

This event has highlighted the challenges of breeding Pallas’s cats due to their weak immune systems and the risks associated with captivity.

The death of Sundaniang has brought attention to the conservation efforts for these elusive animals, which are at serious risk in China due to decades of hunting. The Xining Wildlife Park, where Sundaniang lived, now houses four Pallas’s cats and remains the only facility in China involved in conserving the species.

Source: ecns.cn and Global Times (China).

Pallas's Cat
Pallas’s Cat. Stunning watercolour by that talented artist DALL-E 3
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Does Pallas’s cat have an imperfect autoimmune system?

Pallas’s cats, native to high altitudes, have a specialized immune system adapted to those conditions. However, this immune system is not as effective against the greater variety of bacteria and viruses found at lower altitudes, which can lead to a higher mortality rate in captivity. This is not necessarily an “imperfect” system, but rather one that is specialized for a specific environment and thus may not perform well outside of it.

Sources: smea.uw.edu, Wild Cats Magazine, Wikpedia.

Captive Pallas’s cats die of toxoplasmosis?

Yes, captive Pallas’s cats (Otocolobus manul) are indeed highly susceptible to toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease that can be fatal, especially to kittens. This increased vulnerability is attributed to their evolution in a unique environment with low exposure to the parasite, Toxoplasma gondii. In captivity, where exposure to the parasite is higher, the disease has been reported to cause high mortality rates in Pallas’s cat kittens around weaning age. The condition can also affect kittens in late gestation or soon after birth, with infection occurring postnatally or in utero. Despite treatment efforts, once the disease becomes systemic and clinically apparent, the success rates are low.

Sources: Cambridge.org, Vin, Bioone, Research Gate.

How can we prevent toxoplasmosis in captive Pallas’s cats?

Preventing toxoplasmosis in captive Pallas’s cats involves several measures aimed at reducing the risk of infection with Toxoplasma gondii. Here are some strategies based on current knowledge and practices:

  1. Feed Safe Diet: Provide commercially prepared, cooked foods to eliminate any T. gondii cysts present in raw meat.
  2. Control Prey Access: Prevent cats from eating intermediate hosts like rodents which can carry the parasite.
  3. Enclosure Design: Use enclosures that are fenced on all sides with small mesh sizes to prevent contact with potential sources of infection.
  4. Hygiene Practices: Implement strict hygiene practices, including wearing gloves when working inside enclosures.
  5. Fecal Management: Remove fecal material from litter boxes daily, as oocysts require at least 24 hours to become infective.

These measures can help create a safer environment for captive Pallas’s cats and reduce the likelihood of toxoplasmosis outbreaks. It’s also important to work with veterinary health professionals to establish a comprehensive health monitoring and preventive care program.

Sources: Cornell, Cambridge.org and several more.

What is the life expectancy of Pallas’s cats in captivity?

The life expectancy of Pallas’s cats in captivity is generally up to 12 years. This is under the condition that they are kept in a well-maintained and comfortable environment. In the wild, their lifespan is typically shorter, averaging around 5 to 7 years, due to harsh environmental conditions and predation. However, it’s important to note that these figures can vary based on factors such as diet, healthcare, and living conditions in captivity.

Sources: Wild Cat Conservation, Untamed Science and more.

The ‘proper name’ for the Pallas’s cat is the ‘manul’.

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