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Subject: rec.pets.cats: Miscellaneous Information FAQ
This article was archived around: 21 May 2006 04:22:28 GMT
Last-modified: 13 Aug 1999
The latest versions of these FAQ's may be obtained via the Web at
The multiple posted (ASCII) parts of the FAQ are all archived at rtfm.mit.edu
(22.214.171.124) in the directory /pub/usenet/news.answers/cats-faq. These
files will also appear in other sites that mirror the RTFM archives.
Note: Please see the Table of Contents FAQ for a complete list of
Originally written 1991 & updated through 1997 by Cindy Tittle Moore.
Maintained by the Fanciers website as of July 1999.
Removing Urine Odor
For fresh urine: clean the spot with any good carpet shampoo (Spot
Shot is one). Then soak it with plain old club soda, leave it for
about ten minutes and blot it up.
If the urine has soaked the pad and the floor below that, it will be
difficult to remove the odor regardless of what you use.
To find spots if you're not sure where they are, get a UV lamp that
has the filter built in (to eliminate any remnant visible light).
Urine fluoresces in "black light." You can get them at hardware
stores. There are also UV lamps in hobby stores and places that cater
to spelunkers and rockhounds, but they're more expensive. The UV
source is safe as long as you use the longwave lamp and not the
shortwave lamp used for tanning.
Products that remove odors: Nature's Miracle (carpet, has 800 number);
Simple Solution (carpet and other items); Outright! (carpet); Resolve
(carpet, perhaps other items); Odor Mute (originally for deskunking
dogs, has other applications, leaves white residue, works on
concrete). Odor Abolish, by Endosome Biologicals, may also be useful.
These products use enzymes to break down the odor causing compounds in
urine and feces, and are quite effective.
When using enzymatic products, it is important to use freshly diluted
enzymes, let it soak in as deeply as the urine has penetrated, and
*keep the area warm and wet for 24 hours*. Chemical reactions,
including enzymatic reactions, go faster at higher temperatures.
Unfortunately, most enzymatic reactions don't do well much over 102F
(38-39C)-- so not too hot. Try covering the area with towels soaked in
plain water after applying the enzyme, then a shower curtain or other
plastic over that to make sure the area stays moist.
The enzymes in laundry products are the same as those in the expensive
odor-killing products, but they cost less than 1/3 as much. They work
just as well. Biz is one product. You'll find it in your grocery
laundry section with the pre-soak laundry stuff. Remember, you have to
soak the area and then cover it to keep it from drying out. The smelly
area must be wet with the enzyme for 24 hours or more.
On launderable items: put in the washing machine with a cup of vinegar
and no detergent, then wash again as usual.
If you have concrete (eg, in the basement) into which urine has been
soaked, this can be difficult to remove, as unsealed concrete is very
porous. You will have to neutralize the urine and then seal the
concrete properly. A specialty cleaning service is probably the best
way to properly neutralize the urine in the concrete. Vinegars and
other cleaners may help, but only temporarily. Odor Mute is reputed to
work on concrete. Improving the ventilation may also help. In extreme
cases, pouring another 1/4-1/2 inch layer of concrete over the
original concrete will solve the problem.
Hardwood floors that have been stained with urine can be difficult to
clean. First treat with an enzyme-based product such as Nature's
Miracle to remove the odor. You can find wood bleaches and stains at
your hardware store: you may want to consult with one of the employees
on what is available. You will need to remove any varnish or
polyurethane from the area, sand it down a bit, bleach and/or stain
it, and then apply the protective coat. There are also professional
companies you can consult. In severely stained cases, you may have to
replace the wood.
Catnip and Valerian.
Catnip is a plant that causes various reactions in cats. Very young
cats and kittens will not be affected by catnip. About 20% of cats are
never affected by catnip. It is not known why or how catnip has the
effect it does on the rest of the cat population. It is a
non-addictive "recreational drug" for cats with no known harm to the
cat. There was an article in Science [exact reference?] on the
neurological effects of catnip on cats. It seems to stimulate the same
pleasure centers in the feline brain that orgasm does. Most cats
"mellow out" and become sleepy and happy, others start acting very
kittenish. A small percentage will become possessive of their catnip
and may snap or hiss at you.
You can find wild catnip plants in most weedy areas, and harvest the
seed. Or you can buy seed from companies like Burpees or Parks or
Northrup King -- most garden centers have catnip seed this time of
year -- check the "herb" section. Or even seed racks in the grocery
and discount stores.
Catnip is easy to grow. You will need to keep the plant itself out of
the reach of the cats as catnip-lovers will quickly destroy it. The
best strategy is to get some growing, and then pinch and prune it
regularly and give the harvested leaves to your cat. Keep it in its
own pot, as it will spread rapidly. Cats will tend to dig up
transplanted catnip and eat it roots and all, but are much gentler on
plants started from seed. The leaves have to be bruised to release the
odor, and transplanting seems to be enough bruising...
Nepeta cataria is the common catnip; other Nepeta species have varying
amounts of "active ingredient". A good one is Nepeta mussini, a
miniature-leaved catnip that makes a good rockgarden plant. Nepeta is
a genus of the Lamiaceae (=Labiatae), the mint family. There are about
250 species of catnip, plus a bunch of hybrids between species. Only
about 10 are available in this country, though.
You can order seeds from Burpee (215-674-9633)
Nepeta cataria B61424 $1.25; N. mussinii B38828 $1.45
Valerian root is an herb with effects very similar to catnip and
generally makes cats a bit nuts. It is however not as readily
available as catnip and perhaps a bit more potent than catnip.
Catnip and Valerian both act as sedatives on humans.
Cats and Water
There are breeds of cats with an affinity for water. There have been
reports from rec.pets.cats readers about cats getting into showers
with them; other anecdotes have been very entertaining to read.
Most cats, whether or not they like to get wet, will be fascinated
with watching water drip out of faucets or drain out of tubs, sinks,
Reports of cats drinking from the bottom of the shower, from the sink
and other unlikely places are common. Some cats can be fussy about
water; they seem to like it as fresh as possible, preferably still
moving. You may be able to stop some of this behavior by changing the
cat's water every day and moving it some distance away from the food
dish. In general this habit will not hurt your cat, however unpleasant
it may look to you. Toilet water drinking *should* be discouraged, but
this is easily done by leaving the lid down.
Do All Cats Purr?
Most domestic cats purr. But do the big ones? Most people say not, but
from The Big Cat:
Assertions have been widely made that the roaring cats above are
not able to purr, assertions that have now been disproven. George
B. Schaller reports purring in the lion, tiger, and leopard, as
well as in the cheetah, but remarks that in the lion the sound is
produced only during exhalation and appears to be a much less
common vocalization than in the domestic cat . Snow leopards
purr, like the house cat, during both exhalation and inhalation
. Others have reported that tame, young adult tigers, leopards,
jaguars, and cheetahs purr in response to petting. Finally, purring
has even been reported in five species of viverrids, as well as
suckling black bear cubs and nursing spotted hyenas . These
observations are interesting when compared with Gustave Peters'
comment that there is still some question about the occurrence of
purring, in a strictly defined sense, in the wild cats . He
questions whether the noise identified as a purr from the big cats
is pthe same in detail and manner of production as the purr of a
domestic cat. Of the seven large cats he studied (he did not
consider the cheetah), he observed true purring only in the puma,
but considered it probable that snow leopards and clouoded leopards
also purr. Thus there is still some doubt about the distribution of
the ability to purr among the wild cats.
 Ewer, R. F. 1973. THE CARNIVORES. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University
 Hemmer, H. 1972. UNCIA UNCIA. MAMMALIAN SPECIES No. 20, 5 pp.
 Schaller, G. B. 1972. THE SERENGETI LION. Chicago: University of
 Stuart-Fox, D. T. 1979. MACAN: THE BALINESE TIGER. Bali Post
(English edition) July 23, 1979, pp. 12-13.
Other Cats in the Cat Family
Other cats in the cat family are usually not suitable as domestic
cats. Generally, they are too big, strong, and destructive. In
addition many states have strict regulations about keeping wild
animals as pets. It also appears cruel to have to defang and declaw
these animals to make them safe.
If you have the overwhelming urge to be around wild animals, your best
bet is your local zoo. Many zoos have volunteer docent programs and
you will not only be able to spend time with the various animals, but
also learn a lot about them and have the opportunity to educate the
public while conducting tours or participating in other public
Cat Genetics and Coloring
A cat with patches of red and black is a tortoiseshell, or 'tortie'.
Add white, and you get a calico. A tortoiseshell that is homozygous
for the recessive 'dilution' gene is referred to as a blue-cream, and
that's what color it is: patches of soft grey and cream. This is the
same gene that turns black cats 'blue' (grey), and red cats cream. A
blue-cream and white is generally referred to in the cat world as a
dilute calico. The pattern of black/red or blue/cream can either be in
big dramatic patches, brindling, or some of both. Having more white
seems to encourage the formation of the big patches.
Red in cats is a sex-linked color, carried on the X gene. Therefore, a
male cat whose X carries red will be a red tabby. A female cat who
carries one red and one non-red X will be a patched tabby, a
tortoiseshell, or a calico (if she also has the dominant gene for
white markings). A female cat who is homozygous for red (has it on
both X genes) will be a red tabby. This is why you see more male red
tabbies than females. This is also why male calicos are so rare: you
have to have two X genes to be a calico. Male calicos have genetic
aberrations of various sorts, of which XXY is most common. While they
are most commonly sterile, there *are* documented cases of fertile
male calicos. However, the generalization that "all calicos/torties
are female" is true 99.999 percent of the time.
The reason red females are "uncommon" is that, statistically, the
number of red males is equal to the number of tortoiseshell/calico,
patched tabby, and red females. Red males and tortie/calico/patched
tabby females can be produced when only one parent has the red gene,
but to produce a red female, you must cross a red male with a
red/tortie/calico/patched tabby female. That is why red females are
uncommon. But not "impossible", in the sense that a male calico is
A "solid red" cat will always display the tabby pattern (although it
may be very slight or even undetectable without brushing the fur back
to check). There's another gene at work which controls "agoutiness"
(whether individual hairs are banded or solid). Cats who are
non-agouti will not generally display the tabby pattern, except in red
areas. The non-agouti gene does not affect phaeomelanin, the red
pigment, so red cats always show their tabby pattern.
The red gene "overrides" the solid gene, making the tabby pattern
visible again. (And on other solid colors, you can sometimes notice
the underlying stripes, especially in strong light.) Solid red cats at
cat shows may or may not be genetically solid--they are (generally
longhairs) bred for the "blurring" of the tabby pattern, producing a
cat that doesn't have dramatic markings.
black brown tabby
blue blue tabby
red red tabby
cream cream tabby
chocolate chocolate tabby
cinnamon cinnamon tabby
fawn fawn tabby
The colors a calico will produce depend on the color of the sire. But
at minimum, she can produce red and non-red sons, and patched
tabby/tortoiseshell/calico daughters, as well as non-red daughters.
Whether she will produce tabbies or not depends on the genetic makeup
of the sire. And *any* of the kittens could have white markings, or
Basic cat colors:
Color Dilute form
black blue (a grey color)
chocolate lilac (a pale pinkish-grey)
(chocolate is a recessive gene which changes black to brown)
cinnamon fawn (a very pale pinkish-tan)
(a light reddish brown, found mostly in Siamese and Abyssinians)
red cream (ranges from yellowish
to tannish or buff)
(red and cream are sex-linked, on the X gene, and mask
the previous colors. Actually, there's a separate shade
of red/cream to match each of the previous colors, but
it's hard to tell them apart, unless you're dealing with
a tortoiseshell or patched tabby, which has the non-red
areas to give you a hint.)
(Here we refer to the dominant form, which is masking over
the previous colors. It has no dilution.)
Everything else is a modifier!
white spotting (paws, etc) dominant
polydactyly (extra toes) dominant
manx (taillessness) dominant
silver (inhibits hair color at roots) dominant
white locketing (small spots on chest and/or groin) recessive
dilution (black->blue) recessive
chocolate dilution recessive
cinnamon dilution recessive
bobtail (partial taillessness) recessive
solid (no tabby markings) recessive
long hair recessive
Some genes are incompletely dominant to each other, and are part of a
series. For example, the siamese/burmese genes, from most to least
Burmese/Siamese/blue-eyed white/pink-eyed white (albino)
The coloring of the Burmese and the points of the Siamese is
temperature sensitive. The cooler extremities of the Siamese are
darker; a Burmese that has had a fever may grow in lighter fur for a
while! Such changes are usually temporary, but may take some time to
All cats (even those homozygous for solid) have a tabby pattern. There
are different tabby patterns, from most to least dominant:
Mackerel/Classic/Ticked. The spotted tabby pattern is thought to be a
var`qiant of the Mackerel pattern, not genetically distinct, but the
jury is not yet in.
Smokes and Chinchillas. This is the combination of the expression of
the silver gene (a dominant), and the gene for solid color (a
recessive). Other modifiers account for whether the cat is a referred
to as a smoke, a shaded, or a chinchilla. From most to least colored:
a "smoke" has white roots, a "shaded" has about half and half white
and color along the length of the hair, and a "chinchilla" has color
only on the very tips of the hair. If the cat is a tabby instead of a
solid color, that is a silver tabby. And if the base color is not
black, that would be added to the name as well: blue-cream smoke, red
silver tabby, etc.
During winter or other dry seasons, cats may pick up static and
discharge it every time you pet them. One solution is to rub them with
a fabric softener sheet. The chemicals in fabric softener are not a
problem for cats, although some of the more heavily-scented ones may
be objectionable to the cat.
Some people invest in humidifiers for the house, and that reduces the
static in a cat's fur as well.
Preparing Food for your Cat
The following recipes are extracted from D.S. Kronfeld, 1986.
Therapeutic diets for dogs and cats including a simple system of
recipes. Tijdschrift voor diergeneeskunde 111 (suppl. 1) 37s-41s.
Basic recipe for cat maintenance diet
* 70 g dry white rice (1/3 c)
* 140 g 80% lean hamburger (2/3 c)
* 30g beef liver (1/8 c)
* 11 g bone meal (1 tbsp)
* 5 g corn oil (2 tsp)
* 2 g iodized salt (1/2 tsp)
Combine rice, 2/3 c water, bone meal, salt, and corn oil. Simmer about
20 min. Add meat and beef liver; simmer for 10 minutes. Cool before
serving. Can be frozen or refrigerated for several days.
Yield: 800 kcal metabolizable energy; 30% protein, %ME. (1.3% calcium,
1.1% phosphorus, 0.5% potassium, 0.45% sodium, 0.15% magnesium,
calculated on a dry matter basis)
Cats at risk of FUS
Replace bone meal with 3 g (2 tsp) calcium carbonate or 1/2 tsp ground
limestone (NOT dolomite, which is rich in Mg). This lowers calcium
from 1.3% to 0.7%, phosphorus from 1.1 to 0.3%, magnesium from 0.15%
to 0.08%. Calcium carbonate or limestone does not blend well; you may
prefer to give this in pill or capsule form. Salt can be increased to
1 tsp to promote water intake, and 1/4 to 1/2 tsp ammonium chloride
can be added as a urinary acidifier.
Kidney disease patients
Substitute 40-50% fat hamburger (50-60% lean) for regular hamburger to
lower protein content to 13%. For a protein content of 11%, substitute
1 medium-large egg (55g) and 1 Tbsp chicken fat (15 g) for meat.
Animals in renal failure are anorexic, and maintaining adequate
calorie intake may be one of the most important things in their
Without salt, the "regular recipe" has 0.05% sodium (compares to 0.03%
in special canned "heart diets" and 0.05% in the dry form). These
levels are suitable for animals in end-stage heart failure; for 1st
and 2nd stage chronic heart failure, 0.25% sodium is recommended (use
1/4 tsp salt in the basic recipe instead of 1/2 tsp). Or use 1/2 tsp
"lite salt" (50-50 sodium chloride and potassium chloride) to reduce
sodium to 0.25% and raise potassium from 0.5% to 0.7%. This may be
desirable if a potassium-robbing diuretic is being used, and
especially if digitalis is also prescribed, since digitalis is more
toxic in animals low in potassium. If salt is entirely left out of the
diet, 1/4 tsp potassium chloride may be included to keep the animal
from becoming potassium deficient.
Low fat diet
For non-specific gastrointestinal problems, malabsorption, osmotic
diarrhea, pancreatitis, hepatic lipidosis, lymphangiectasis, and
To reduce fat levels, substitute one of the following for the 70 g
(2.5 oz)of 80% lean hamburger:
100 g (3.5 oz) 90% lean meat 10% fat
120 g (4.3 oz) egg 12% fat
180 g (6.3 oz) heart 4% fat
230 g (8.2 oz) cottage cheese 1% fat
400 g (14.4 oz) egg white, COOKED 0% fat
Substitute 1 tsp safflower oil for 2 tsp corn oil. In extreme cases,
reduce safflower oil to 1/2 tsp., or substitute MCT (medium chain
Low fat, high fiber diet
For geriatric animals, chronic enteritis or pancreatitis.
* 1/2 c dry white rice
* 1/3 c 90% lean hamburger
* 1/3 c wheat bran
* 2 Tbsp beef liver
* 1 Tbsp bone meal
* 2 tsp corn oil
* 1/2 tsp iodized salt
(this diet has only 700 calories, compared to 800 for the basal diet).
If the bran is too irritating to the intestines, replace all or part
of the bran with alpha cellulose (e.g. Solka Floc, from Brown & Co,
Berlin, New Hampshire, USA). This will greatly decrease the available
* 1/3 c dry white rice
* 1/3 c 90% lean hamburger
* 2/3 c wheat bran
* 2 Tbsp beef liver
* 1 Tbsp bone meal
* 2 tsp corn oil
* 1/2 tsp iodized salt
This diet has only 600 cal compared to 800 calories of the basal diet.
Substitute hamburger, ground mutton or lamb, pork, turkey, chicken, or
fish for the meat that had been normally consumed. Substitute chicken
or turkey liver for beef liver.
Low purine diet
Substitute a comprehensive trace mineral and vitamin tablet that
contains vitamin B-12 for liver in base diet. Replace meat with 1 or 2
eggs blended in 1/4 to 1/2 c cows milk. Carrots or tomatoes can be
blended in. This may reduce protein content, but increase acceptance.
Do not add other vegetables.
I tried the recipes above on my 6 cats (not picky eaters!) They
eagerly accepted the basic diet, but were not especially fond of the
reducing diet... adding a tsp of instant minced onion seemed to
improve the acceptance, as did a little catnip mixed in.
Most cats should do well with the basic diet. If you make major
changes (such as the low fat or reducing versions), you may also want
to make up some basic diet and gradually shift the cat from basic to
Cat Owner Allergies
In general, keep the cats out of the bedroom. If cats can be trained
to keep off the furniture, that also helps. Substances like Allerpet C
can be used on cat's fur to dissolve some of the dander and protein
from the saliva that people are allergic to. Long haired cats have
more area to deposit their saliva on and they have to be brushed
(putting more dander in the air), so short haired cats are better for
people with allergies. Clean and vacuum often; groom and brush the cat
(outside if possible) often so its hair-shedding around the house is
minimized; and bathe the cat regularly.
Some people are simply allergic to new cats. This kind of allergy
means that it will diminish with repeated exposure. Thus you will not
be allergic to cats that you are exposed to regularly; and actually
become allergic to your own cat if you're away from it for some time.
Washing hands frequently helps with this type of allergy.
Other people are allergic to the saliva on the cat's fur. A remedy for
this is to bathe the cat once a month. No soap is needed, merely soak
the cat thoroughly. Done on a monthly basis, it seems to keep the
saliva levels down to a tolerable level. This was reported in a
scientific journal somewhere; Cat Fancy covered it a few years ago.
You may be allergic to cat hair, in which case you may want to get one
of the breeds of cats with short, little, or no hair. There is a
hairless cat, the Sphynx, and there are breeds of cat which are
entirely lacking in the kind of hair (cats have four kinds of hair)
most people are allergic to. These are the Cornish Rex or Devon Rex
breeds, and their fur is short and curly.
You could go to an allergy specialist and get shots to help you with
specific allergies. This can be expensive, but worth it, especially if
you have other allergies as well. They'll test you for the things
you're allergic to, and then give you periodic shots to help you
develop an appropriate immunity to them. Be sure to find a specialist
familiar with cat allergies: many will simply recommend you get rid of
pets. Also, don't expect miracles. They can do a lot for you to reduce
your allergies, but sometimes they can't track down a particular one,
and sometimes it takes more than "just shots" to deal with an allergy.
The magazine New Woman (October 1992) has an interesting article about
a cat-allergy vaccine. Catvax is being developed by the Immulogic
Pharmaceutical Corporation (I.P.C.) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and
is now being tested on humans at Johns Hopkins University. Tests on
animals indicate that Catvax is different from traditional cat-allergy
shots in two ways. First, unlike conventional allergy therapy, which
involves biweekly or weekly injections for up to a year, the vaccine
may be able to completely prevent allergic reactions after just a few
injections. Second, studies suggest that the vaccine will not produce
allergic side effects, such as asthma, that traditional shots often
do. I.P.C. hopes to complete its human studies and have the vaccine on
the market by 1996 or 1997.
There is an informative article "When Humans Have Allergies: Ways to
Tolerate Cat Allergies," in Cats Magazine, April 1992. The August 1992
issue of Cat Fancy contains an informative article; the September 1992
issue has a survey of people's experiences with allergies and what
worked for them.
Toxoplasmosis (when you are pregnant and own a cat)
Toxoplasmosis is a disease that can be picked up by handling
contaminated raw meat, or the feces produced after ingestion of such
meat. It takes between 36 and 48 hours for the eggs shed in stools to
reach the infective stage, so if you remove stools from the litter box
every day, the chances are slim that you could contract toxoplasmosis.
(Nomenclature: Toxoplasma gondii is the organism, toxoplasmosis the
disease, and Toxoplasma is a protozoan.)
In theory, you can catch it by cleaning the litter box or by working
in a garden used as a litter box. Most commonly, people catch it by
handling raw meat or eating undercooked meat. Many cat-exposed people
have had toxoplasmosis; the symptoms are similar to a mild cold.
The problem occurs when pregnant women contract toxoplasmosis. This
will severely damage the fetus. Simple precautions will prevent this
problem; unfortunately many doctors still recommend getting rid of
cats when the woman is pregnant. A good idea is to get tested for
toxoplasmosis *before* you get pregnant; once you've had it, you will
not get it again.
You should note that there has yet to be a proven case of human
toxoplasmosis contracted from a cat -- the most common sources of
toxoplasmosis are the eating or preparing of contaminated raw meat.
To prevent human contraction of toxoplasmosis:
1. Cook any meat for you or your cat thoroughly.
2. Use care when handling raw meat.
3. Wear household gloves when handling litter.
4. Use disinfectant to clean the litter pan and surrounding area.
5. Change the cat litter often.
6. Keep children's sandpits covered when not in use.
7. Wear gardening gloves when working in the garden.
To be on the safe side, the litterbox and meat-chopping chores should
go to someone else if you're pregnant.
An article in Cats Magazine (January, 1994) mentions toxo. To quote:
...transmission of the disease between cats and humans is highly
unlikely. In fact, Karen D. Brooks, DVM, states that 'although the
possibility of transmission from cats to humans exists, there has
never been a documented case of prenatal toxoplasma infection in a
human that was caused by a cat' (Veterinary Technician, September,
1992). Experts believe the real culprits of toxoplasmosis
transmission are probably contaminated soil and infected meat.
The only way cats can transmit toxoplasmosis is through their
feces, so simply having another family member change the litter box
or wearing gloves and washing thoroughly afterward eliminates the
risk. A pregnant woman should also wear gloves when gardening to
avoid any contact with feces that may have been buried by outdoor
cats. If other children in the family have a sandbox, it should be
covered to prevent cats from using it as a litter box. It must be
stressed that it is not possible to contract toxoplasmosis by
petting, being licked by, or otherwise handling a cat.
If you have had toxoplasmosis in the past, you can't get it again. You
can be tested to determine if you already have the antibodies,
indicating that you have had the disease in the past and would not
contract it again. Even if you do carry the antibodies, it would be
wise to take all the same precautions, but that simple test could help
ease your mind about the risk.
Re: toxoplasmosis: This is a short summary from the chapter on
zoonoses (animal/human shared diseases) by Gary D. Nosworthy (pp.
577-582) in Nosworthy, G D (ed.) 1993. Feline Practice. JB Lippincott,
Philadephia. ISBN 0 397 51204 X
Approximately 80% of the cats in the US show evidence of prior
infection with Toxoplasma gondii, the causative organism. However,
cats are able to release the stage (oocyst) that can infect humans
only once during the cat's lifetime, and then, only for a maximum of
two weeks. Oocysts remain infective for about 5 days maximum.
About 1/3 of the US population has been infected with T. gondii; once
you are infected, you are immune. The only time that T. gondii causes
more of a problem than a mild flu-ish illness is if you are
immunosuppressed (AIDS, organ transplant recipient, etc.) or you
become infected while you are pregnant. About 20-50% of the fetuses
exposed to their mother's new T. gondii infection will become
infected. Current US estimates of infection are that 1 of 1000 babies
(0.1%) are infected. If you have a previous infection with T. gondii,
you can handle infected materials with impunity during pregnancy...
you and your baby are protected by your antibodies.
Cats are probably not the largest source of infection of T. gondii in
the US: Having a pet cat, direct contact with cats around the house,
working in a vet hospital do not increase the likelihood of
(ref: Reif, JS. 1980. Toxoplasmosis: Assessment of the role of cats in
human infection. Compend. Contin. Educ. Pract. Vet. 2:810; Ganley,
JP, Comstock, GW, 1980. Association of cats and toxoplasmosis, Am.
J. Epidemiol. 111:238)
The best way to prevent the problems of toxoplasmosis contracted
during pregnancy may be to contract it BEFORE pregnancy... The most
common mode of transmission in the US is contact with uncooked or
undercooked meat, esp. pork.
(ref: Jones, TC. 1983. Toxoplasmosis , p 438. IN Kay, D, Rose, LF,
(eds.) Fundamentals of Internal Medicine. CV Mosby, St. Louis.)
Other modes of transmission in the US (much rarer) include
transfusions of blood cells or platelets, or organ transplants.
There is also an experimental vaccine for T. gondii in cats. It is not
Vets and physicians can have blood samples tested for T. gondii
antibodies. T. gondii antibodies during pregnancy do not mean that the
woman has just been infected... they probably reflect an old
infection. Only rising antibody titers during pregnancy are a cause
Good cooking and handwashing practices will reduce the likelihood of
infection of a previously uninfected pregnant woman to nearly nil.
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