Parasite in cats linked to learning difficulties in children

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.

toxoplasmosis and kids

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

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.

Read more about the truth about toxoplasmosis.

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.

Source: Parasite in cats linked to learning difficulties….

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8 thoughts on “Parasite in cats linked to learning difficulties in children”

  1. Society is unwilling to plant the blame where it needs to be when it comes to the learning difficulties with children.
    Parents won’t accept any responsibility even though they have never helped their child with any assignment.
    Teachers can’t accept any responsibility since authorities and parents won’t let them do their jobs.
    It’s convenient to look anywhere for blame other than humans.

  2. Cats have lived closely alongside humans for thousands of years. Yet we are expected to believe that learning difficulties experienced by the current generation of children is due to contamination from cats! Perhaps they’d like to explain why previous generations of children were not affected in the same way.

    The causes of learning difficulty in children are many and varied. Scapegoating cats instead of tackling the real causes is not going to help solve the problem.

      • It sure is, Dee. The timing of that article is really curious. On the flip side we’ve all seen the exact same charge leveled against wild birds. I did some research as I was posting, and I came up with this:

        Birds and their droppings can carry over 60 diseases. Examples of transmissible bird diseases associated with pigeons, geese, starling and house sparrows:

        Histoplasmosis is a respiratory disease that may be fatal. It results from a fungus growing in dried bird droppings.

        Candidiasis is a yeast or fungus infection spread by pigeons. The disease affects the skin, the mouth, the respiratory system, the intestines and the urogenital tract, especially the vagina. It is a growing problem for women, causing itching, pain and discharge.

        Cryptococcosis is caused by yeast found in the intestinal tract of pigeons and starlings. The illness often begins as a pulmonary disease and may later affect the central nervous system. Since attics, cupolas, ledges, schools, offices, warehouses, mills, barns, park buildings, signs, etc. are typical roosting and nesting sites, the fungus is apt to found in these areas.

        St. Louis Encephalitis, an inflammation of the nervous system, usually causes drowsiness, headache and fever. It may even result in paralysis, coma or death. St. Louis encephalitis occurs in all age groups, but is especially fatal to persons over age 60. The disease is spread by mosquitoes which have fed on infected house sparrow, pigeons and house finches carrying the Group B virus responsible for St. Louis encephalitis.

        Salmonellosis often occurs as “food poisoning” and can be traced to pigeons, starlings and sparrows. The disease bacteria are found in bird droppings; dust from droppings can be sucked through ventilators and air conditioners, contaminating food and cooking surfaces in restaurants, homes and food processing plants.

        E.coli. Cattle carry E. coli 0157:H7. When birds peck on cow manure, the E. coli go right through the birds and the bird droppings can land on or in a food or water supply.

        Besides being direct carriers of disease, nuisance birds are frequently associated with over 50 kinds of ectoparasites, which can work their way throughout structures to infest and bite humans. About two-thirds of these pests may be detrimental to the general health and well-being of humans and domestic animals. The rest are considered nuisance or incidental pests.

        All of that sounds a heck of a lot more serious than any alleged bug a cat might harbor. Oh, I know, let’s go out and slaughter all the bird life we possibly can! Who’s with me?

        Oooh, I think I just did a Woody. Sorry.

        I knew a person who once bought and flipped an abandoned firehouse that had holes in the roof. Victor said the worst part of the renovation was clearing out the bird nests and cleaning up the droppings. He said he wasn’t taking any chances and went out and bought a haz-mat suit for the job. After the job was done he ditched the entire suit and decontaminated himself from head to toe. Twice.

        I’ve had cats all my life, and will continue to have them until the day I die. Any medical problems I have are definitely not cat-related.

  3. The “study” performed to come to the conclusion that cats are responsible for children’s disabilities is false! Everyone (parents, siblings, children, etc.) in my family grew up around indoor/outdoor cats. None of us ever had learning disabilities of any kind, with the exception of occasional laziness. If one was able to dig deep enough into the background of these authors, one would most likely find that the author is anti-cat/dog or what ever kind of animal the article is about.

  4. Seems like another way to malign the cat by those who don’t like cats. Strange that the author didn’t indicate their name.

    • It is sad that cats take such a horrific beating. In the human judicial system, one is innocent until proven guilty, but in the animal world, all are guilty unless it is convenient for the human.


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