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Expert Advice

on Cat Litter

& Toxoplasmosis

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Your Cat's Litter Box can be Dangerous - Part 1 -

By: Alfred

Cat litter poses a risk to not only a cat's health if not
handled and cleaned properly but to humans as well. The
first risk is posed by bacteria and parasites that are
present in your pet's feces. The second risk is injury
resulting from automatic litter boxes or self cleaning
litter boxes.

The first risk is by far and away the most important not
only to your cat's health but your own. Improper cleaning
and handling of cat litter can result in sickness in not
only your cat but you the pet owner as well. The most common
parasite and bacteria found in your cats litter box is
Toxoplasmosis and Escherichia coli (commonly called E.

Toxoplasmosis is caused by a parasite called Toxoplasma
gondii, which can be found in unwashed fruits and
vegetables, raw or undercooked meat, unpasturized milk,
dirty cat litter boxes and outdoor soil where cat feces can
be found.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC) more than 60 million people in the United States may
be infected with the Toxoplasma parasite. It is said that
ten to twenty out of every one hundred people is infected
with toxoplasmosis sometime by the time they are adults.
Fortunately, very few people experience major symptoms, many
have no symptoms at all and never know they are infected,
because a healthy person's immune system usually keeps the
parasite from causing a serious illness.

However, pregnant women and individuals who have compromised
immune systems, such as individuals infected with the HIV
virus, people being treated for cancer, and people who have
had organ transplants are at risk and should take
precautions to avoid being infected by the parasite. A
Toxoplasma infection could cause serious health problems for
people in this group either to the individual or to the
unborn child of a pregnant woman who is exposed to it.

The most common symptoms include fever, headache, swollen
glands, muscle pain, tiredness, muscle pain or a stiff neck.
In some cases it may cause temporary blurred vision or
blindness. For those in the high risk group, Toxoplasmosis
can cause damage to the brain, eyes and internal organs.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration, children
born with Toxoplasma gondii can suffer from hydrocephalus
(commonly called water on the brain), convulsions, hearing
loss, mental retardation, and blindness, with some children
developing brain or eye problems years after birth. The CDC
estimates that 400-4000 fetuses are infected with the
Toxoplasma gondii parasite each year and as many as 80
infants die from Toxoplasmosis annually.

People in the high risk group may wonder whether or not they
should give up their cat to avoid infection. According to
the CDC, it is not necessary for cat lovers to give up their
cats, but it is important for them to protect themselves
from infections.

The USFDA makes the following recommendations for avoiding

1) If possible, have someone else change the litter box. If
you have to clean it, wear disposable gloves and wash your
hands thoroughly with soap and warm water afterwards.

2) Change the litter box daily. The parasite doesn't become
infectious until one to five days after the feces are
deposited in the litter box.

3) Wear gloves when gardening in a garden or handling sand
from a sandbox because cats may have excreted feces in them.
Be sure to wash your hands with soap and warm water

4) Cover outdoor sandboxes to prevent cats from using them
as litter boxes.

5) Feed your cat commercial dry or canned food. Never feed
your cat raw meat because it can be a source of the
Toxoplasmosis gondii parasite.

6) Keep indoor cats indoors. Be especially cautious if you
bring outdoor cats indoors.

7) Avoid stray cats, especially kittens.

8) Don't get a new cat while you're pregnant.

Safer Child, Inc. makes the following additional

1) Have your veterinarian test your cat for the
Toxoplasmosis parasite. If you cat is infected, you may want
to consider having someone else keep your cat during your

2) Keep sandboxes covered to prevent cats from using the
sandbox as a litter box.

3) Be aware of neighborhood sandboxes as the parasite can be
brought home on shoes, clothing and toys.

Cats that have been raised indoors, have never been outside,
have never caught and eaten birds or mice, and have never
been fed raw meat are not likely to be infected. A stray cat
or any other cat that you don't know should not be handled.
If it is a stray, call your local cat rescue or the Humane
Society so that it can be caught and checked by a

Some tips for a healthy life with your cat:

1. Wash your hands after handling your cat.

2. Keep the litter box clean.

4. Use a covered litter box if you have small children or
dogs in the house.

5. When you clean the litter box, dispose of the feces in a
closed plastic bag, and don't keep the bag inside your

6. See your vet if your cat shows any signs of illness.

7. Don't feed your cat raw meat.

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