Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Can I get toxoplasmosis from my cat?"
Heard about this bacteria called toxoplasmosis being in like every single cat. Could my cat give it to me? What would it do to me?
Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by Toxoplasma gondii, which is actually a tiny microscopic parasite, not a bacteria. The Toxoplasma parasite primarily lives in cats (who can pick it up, for example, from eating mice). It is much more common in cats who have access to the outdoors. The parasite can be passed from the cat to the human, usually when humans come into contact with the parasite in the feces of the cat. Generally speaking, becoming infected with toxoplasmosis is not a major health risk for most individuals. At most, it may cause a flu-like illness with some fatigue, weakness, fever, and aches and pains that go away after several days. However, toxoplasmosis can be a serious problem for certain special populations. These include pregnant women, who can pass the infection to their babies in the womb, causing serious problems including birth defects. Also, people with immune deficiencies (HIV/AIDS, certain types of cancer, etc) can have reactivation of the toxoplasmosis infection, causing serious and potentially life threatening health problems. To prevent the spread of toxoplasmosis, the best method is to promptly clean any cat litter box while wearing gloves. People like pregnant women who are at high risk should not clean the cat box. Please talk to your primary care doctor for more information about toxoplasmosis and its implications for you.