The title to this post is biased and does a great disservice to the domestic cat. Please read on….
The headline comes from a Daily Telegraph article, dated 1st June 2015, written by an unnamed reporter. He/she has written a misleading and unfair article about the domestic cat. I explain why in this article.
This newspaper reporter has done what many have done before, namely, pick up on a research study and been selective about how he presents the findings of the study while failing to do sufficient general research about the subject in order to put the study findings into context. He has also overemphasised the role of the domestic cat in the transmission of this disease.
The Daily Telegraph article states that the well-known Toxoplasma gondii protozoan, present in a sizeable percentage of domestic cats, has been linked to “poor reading performance and impaired verbal memory” in school-aged children
The newspaper article builds upon previous scaremongering articles about how this protozoan can infect a person’s brain thereby changing the person’s personality and even turning them into schizophrenics. There is no hard evidence to support these statements.
Although at the base of the page the reporter does mention ‘chief causes’ of acquiring toxoplasmosis as eating raw meat the article falls far short of presenting the full facts fairly.
Although cats are the primary host for this intracellular parasite it can infect other warm-blooded animals and most importantly, the majority of human cases by a wide margin come from eating raw or undercooked meat, particularly lamb or pork. I’d suggest that a “wide margin” means around 75% of humans or more. Unpasteurised dairy products can also be a source of infection as can unwashed vegetables.
Further, evidence suggests that cats can get the disease from eating raw or undercooked pork, beef just like humans.
“If you have an indoor cat who eats only cat food, she’s not likely to ever be infected” (Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook). Therefore about 30-40% of USA domestic cats are not likely to be infected.
Also, other studies have concluded that people who care for cats are no more likely to get the disease than those that don’t.
In addition, the infective oocysts inside the cat, “are only passed for a very short time after initial exposure”. This means that people can only get the disease from the cat for a very short time in the cat’s life.
Therefore, when this study from the universities of Iowa and Florida is read in context with what is known about the role of cats in the transmission of toxoplasmosis, it’s suggested conclusions take on a completely different complexion.
Almost every time that journalists write about toxoplasmosis they get things wrong. They get things wrong in a way which is biased against the domestic cat and often cat lovers are compelled to conclude that the authors of these articles do this to deliberately malign the cat.