Showing posts with label zoonosis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label zoonosis. Show all posts

Wednesday 1 November 2023

Friend tells pregnant woman that she is a bad mother because she won't get rid of her cats

NEWS AND COMMENT: This is a story which probably happens not infrequently inside homes across the planet. And it's a bit sad that two workplace friends fell out when one of them became pregnant and insisted on keeping her four cats despite the protestations of her friend.

Pregnant women don't have to get rid of their cat because there are alternative ways of dealing with a potential infection of Toxoplasma gondii which can be highly effective and protect the baby completely.

And what is doubly upsetting is that other workplace women agreed with her friend that he should give up her cats. It seems that they might have ostracised her to a certain extent.

The woman in question has lived with cats all her life. She has four cats; all rescues by the way which is great. She was baffled by her friend insisting that she get rid of the cats to protect her unborn baby.

The story comes from The pregnant woman is 30 years of age and her friend, Josie, is 28. The pregnant woman has been married for 10 years.

As sooner as her friend found out that she was pregnant she went into a long description of why the cats had to go and why pregnant women should not change the cat litter boxes to protect the unborn child.

She was somewhat baffled by the advice. I think she knew about toxoplasmosis already and as she had grown up with cats all her life, she thought that if she was going to get the disease she would have been infected already. A good percentage of people are infected by toxoplasmosis without realising it because the disease is asymptomatic.

But the big point is this one: she's got a husband who can change the litter box! There was no need for this pregnant woman to take any chances.

The point here is that pregnant women don't have to get rid of their cats because there are better ways of dealing with this potential health problem concerning the unborn child. Although this potential health problem is, I agree, a serious one.

Another point worth making is that nearly all toxoplasmosis infections in humans come from eating undercooked food, handling uncooked food or drinking unpasteurised milk. The source is food rather than the domestic cat.

The problem is this: the parasite which causes a Toxoplasma gondii infection can cross the placenta and infect the developing foetus where it can cause congenital toxoplasmosis.

The severity of the infection depends upon the gestation age at which the mother becomes infected.

If the infection is early, it is generally more severe. The unborn child can experience a range of complications including birth defects, stillbirth or miscarriage. The birth defects can include hearing loss, intellectual disabilities, blindness, I inflammation, visual impairments or neurological disorders.

Infected unborn children, once born may not show symptoms at birth but they can develop complications later in life such as hearing problems or cognitive development problems.

Common sense precautions are the answer. Pregnant women should practise good hygiene through hand washing after handling raw meat and, as mentioned, avoiding contact with cat litter boxes. Raw vegetables should be washed thoroughly.

Lastly, domestic cats get a bad rap for being a vector of Toxoplasma gondii. They are only infective for about 10 days in their entire life. It is not as if they are carrying the disease all their lives and can spread it to hundreds of people. It doesn't work like that. People who provide advice like this woman should understand toxoplasmosis a little more thoroughly before handing down advice to pregnant women.

Toxoplasmosis is a zoonosis or a zoonotic disease because it can infect both animals and people and cross between them.


P.S. please forgive the occasional typo. These articles are written at breakneck speed using Dragon Dictate. I have to prepare them in around 20 mins.

Friday 14 July 2023

European Union tells cat owners to keep their cats indoors full-time (in certain areas)

The headline may surprise you. In Europe, the default cat ownership M.O. is to allow cats and indoor/outdoor life. Things are changing but that is the current method. However, the worst-ever outbreak of bird flu has hit the European continent which led to the European Food Safety Authority deciding to make the announcement. Twenty-four cats in Poland tested positive for the virus and the authority fears that avian influenza could be evolving to spread among mammals.

Notes about bird flu, domestic cats and people.

Cats on a farm as exposed to bird flu
Cats on a farm as exposed to bird flu. Image: MikeB

As you probably know, bird flu is zoonotic which means that it can be transmitted between different animal species. Even people can get it. And if cats can get it from birds, then theoretically at least cats can give it to people. The disease has the potential for being quite serious. I suppose there is even a technical possibility that it could create another pandemic.

Since late 2021, bird flu has killed millions of birds in Europe and in other countries. Sixty-seven countries on five continents reported (H5N1) outbreaks. More than 131 million poultry have either died of bird flu or been killed by farmers to prevent the spread of bird flu.

And although we know that 24 cats tested positive for bird flu as mentioned, outbreaks in other areas have led to 26 different species contracting the disease including farmed mink in Spain. This is highly concerning for the authorities.

The European Food Safety Authority wants there to be less exposure of the disease to domestic cats and dogs and to achieve that objective they said: "Possible measures are keeping dogs on a leash, and confining cats indoors in areas where extensive circulation of HPAI [highly pathogenic avian influenza] viruses in wild birds has been confirmed."

Around 70 domestic cats might have died of bird flu in Poland since June 23. The World Health Organisation said that "some mammals may act as mixing vessels for influenza viruses, leading to the emergence of new viruses that could be harmful to animals and humans."

They added that, "Avian influenza viruses normally spread among birds, but the increasing number of H5N1 avian influenza detections among mammals-which are biologically closer to humans than birds are-raises concern that the virus might adapt to infect humans more easily."

Tuesday 11 July 2023

Cats can get bird flu by eating raw chicken necks and experts recommend feeding raw chicken necks to domestic cats

You may have heard about the bird flu outbreak among domestic cats in Poland. It is reported that at least 24 sick or dead cats tested positive for H5N1 in Poland according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. There are uncertainties about how the cats contracted the disease but 13 were found to have been fed raw poultry meat.

Bird flu
Bird flu. Image: MikeB

My mind then jumped to advice that you can read on the Internet from various sources including veterinary websites about the benefit of feeding domestic cats with the raw neck of poultry because it is very good for the teeth and it is cartilaginous which minimises the harm that they might experience when biting into bones.

You can also feed domestic cats bird wings. Once again, the idea is to improve gum health because, to be frank, the large pelleted dry cat food is not that great at cleaning teeth and preventing the buildup of calculus along the gum line.

Dr. Bruce Fogle DVM and author recommends feeding raw chicken to cats so that they can bite on bone. There is a risk but he argues that the benefit outweighs the risk.

At present, with a bird flu epidemic in Poland and with bird flu present in other countries including the UK, I would suggest that people should not feed their cat companions with chicken neck because the risk/reward balance has been shifted by the presence of bird flu.

"H5N8 and H5N1 bird flu have been found in some poultry, other captive birds and wild birds in the UK." - NHS

The disease is zoonotic and therefore it can be transmitted from birds to cats as we can see from the Polish problem. In Poland, incidentally, one cat owner said that she feed her cat raw chicken purchased from a large supermarket chain. Within days of eating the raw chicken her cat became drowsy. A veterinarian suspected a cold but within days her cat began to lose balance and she fell off a chair.

Her hind legs were paralysed and she stopped eating completely. Antibiotics and steroids were unable to help and the cat died seven days after eating the raw meat.

Thursday 4 May 2023

2 instances when cat many owners destroyed their cats believing they'd catch a fatal disease from them

There have been a couple of high-profile instances when many cat owners deliberately destroyed their cat companions because they believed that they might catch a fatal disease from them.

AIDS in humans set of panic in nervous cat owners who killed their cats
AIDS in humans set off panic in nervous cat owners who killed their cats. Image: CNN.


Feline AIDS as it is sometimes called or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) was discovered in 1986. In June 1981, the first cases of the illness now known as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) were reported from Los Angeles in five young homosexual men diagnosed with Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia and other opportunistic infections (CDC).

The news media reported on FIV in a way which scared the population into believing that they could catch the disease from their cats.

This led to some cat owners panicking and killing their cats. Within hours of the newspaper reports nervous cat owners were taking their cats to shelters and asking them to euthanise them or find new homes.

Eventually the news media researched the facts and reported that the virus that causes feline AIDS was not zoonotic i.e., it cannot be transmitted to humans but the damage had been done and many cats were killed unnecessarily.

It is true that the viruses causing human and feline AIDS belong to the same group of viruses but they are distantly related. There is no way a cat can give a human the disease even by biting and scratching them.


When this disease was first reported in the news media, I can well remember the effect it had on nervous cat owners in China. Those in high rise apartment blocks began throwing their cats out of the windows to their deaths on the paving below.

Cats thrown from tower blocks in China during the early days of the Covid pandemic
Cats thrown from tower blocks in China during the early days of the Covid pandemic. Image in public domain.

It was dire. And then as the pandemic progressed thousands of cat owners abandoned their pets in locked apartments for them to die of starvation. It was utterly mad.

At the time there was no media reports of the possibility of contracting the disease from companion animals so these cat killings were entirely out of panic. 

As it transpired it was found that Covid is zoonotic and can infect people. And people can get the disease from pets but even at the end of the pandemic there have been exceptionally few examples.

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