Cats Are 'Likely' Spreading A Dangerous Parasite Across Canada Says A New Study

It can also infect humans.

Vancouver Editor
Cats Are 'Likely' Spreading A Dangerous Parasite Across Canada Says A New Study

A study from UBC has found that free-roaming outdoor cats are likely driving the spread of a parasite to wildlife.

The study suggests that cats that are wandering around freely outdoors may be to blame for the spread of Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that can be deadly.

Researchers analyzed 45,079 cases of the disease in wild mammals, making it the first study to look at so many species on a global scale.

It said that the disease is linked to chronic conditions like types of cancer and nervous system disorders.

The parasite can infect birds and mammals, including humans. The parasite is dangerous for pregnant women and anyone who is immune-compromised, and it can cause serious illnesses — even death.

In a healthy mammal, though, the parasite remains dormant.

It's more likely to infect in places with a high human density, like urban areas. With more humans come more pets, meaning that an increased population leads to more free-roaming cats that can spread the parasite.

Cats have a unique ability to quickly spread the infection. "One infected cat can excrete as many as 500 million Toxoplasma oocysts (or eggs) in just two weeks," said the study's press release.

These eggs can live in soil and water for years before infecting birds or mammals.

With the finding that cats may be responsible for the increased likelihood of infection near urban areas, it makes it easier to reduce Tocoplasma in wildlife by limiting roaming cats.

The solution? Keep cats indoors as much as possible to help reduce the spread.