Thursday, 24 January 2013

Toxoplasmosis, Cats and Us!

Toxoplasmosis, Cats and Us!

Toxoplasmosis has been in the headlines recently, with cats being implicated as the major source of infection.  As a woman who works with cats, has a cat at home, and is hoping to have children one day, I decided to write a blog to reassure pregnant people or those with young children that there is no need to part with your beloved pet!

Toxoplasmosis is disease caused by infection with Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite.  In people with normally functioning immune systems, toxoplasmosis may be mild, and pass undetected.  Commonly, it is mistaken for ‘flu.  It is most severe in ‘high risk’ groups whose immunity is impaired, such as the very old and very young and immunosuppressed people.  In general, infection with the parasite is common although disease is rare, and once you have had it, even if you didn’t realise that you did, you are then immune! 

Regarding pregnant women, if the woman has already been infected with T gondii then she will have developed antibodies, and on becoming pregnant, there is no risk to the foetus.  Infection can only be passed on to the foetus if a woman contracts toxoplasmosis for the first time during a pregnancy.  In around 20-30% of these women, the foetus will be infected and may be lost or suffer birth defects.  However, with good hygiene and common sense, this can be avoided.

In most cases, people become infected by ingesting T gondii oocysts (eggs) through contact with soil containing them, or by eating contaminated fruit and vegetables; or by eating meat containing tissue cysts.   

Concerning cats, the risk from contracting toxoplasmosis from cats is from ingesting infective oocysts from the cat’s faeces.  Cats commonly pick up T gondii from the food they eat.  Although infection with T gondii rarely causes diseases in cats, signs of illness can sometimes be seen, and include fever, loss of appetite, weight loss and lethargy.  Most cats are infected by eating meat containing T gondii, which can include raw, or inadequately cooked meat, or prey.  Once carrying T gondii, cats only shed the oocysts once in their life for a period of less than two weeks, and the oocysts are not immediately infectious.  This means that if an infected cat goes to the toilet in your litter tray, if you clean the tray everyday, there will be no problem!  Stroking a cat will not pass infection from cats to people.
If your basic hygiene is good, you have little to fear, but the following list should help you to avoid toxoplasmosis:

  • If you eat meat, make sure it has been properly cooked
  • Freezing meat for a few days should also kill any oocysts
  • Wash vegetables before eating them
  • Wear gloves when gardening, and wash your hands afterwards
  • Cover children’s sandpits when they are not in use
  • Empty and clean your cat’s litter tray everyday / when the cat has used it with detergent and boiling water, and wash your hands
  • If you are pregnant or immunosuppressed, ask someone else to clean litter trays.

On a personal note, one of our CCAs recently had a baby.  On finding out that she was pregnant, she went to her doctor and told him about the job she did here.  Her doctor had no concerns about it, as long as she wore gloves when cleaning the litter trays and washed her hands – basic hygiene!  Recent research indicates that contact with cats does not increase the risk of T gondii infection of people.  On the arrival of her baby, our colleague was fostering an old cat called Harley.  She didn’t ever have a problem with her child touching Harley, or with Harley touching her child.  “It’s just a matter of being sensible”, she said.  “You wouldn’t let children play with cat litter anyway, so they shouldn’t come into contact with faeces…and toxoplasmosis is only occasionally present in the first place.  Be sensible and all should be fine!”

To sum up, the risks of contracting toxoplasmosis from your cat are extremely small, and most people are infected from other routes, and basic hygiene and common sense will reduce any risks at all. 

I hope that this blog has been useful in putting the minds of cat-loving parents and parents-to-be at rest!

(Factual content courtesy of CP.)

Monday, 21 January 2013

Homing update - 21st January

We've had a great weekend homing lots of our kittens! Two of them you may remember which are Aspen and Russell who were rescued from under a dual carriageway bridge by our CCAs. These kittens were so nervous and frightened of people when they first came to us. They came on leaps and bounds, they loved sitting at the front of their pen and playing. We are so pleased all of them have found loving homes. We are hoping their mum Unicorn will found a loving home soon. Her confidence is growing each and every day here with us. She’s looking for someone with a little time and patience to help her develop to her full potential. She looked very adorable this morning by covering herself with her blanket to keep warm in this cold winter weather.

Buttons has been spending time in our office for a few weeks now, he loves being around the girls and it gives him a nice break from his pen. His favourite thing to do is to head-butt you while you’re working on a computer or filling out paperwork. He loves kisses and attention. He enjoys sitting on our counter watching people come in or finding donated cat nip toys and going a bit hyperactive for an afternoon. He’s had a calmer day today. Its cold outside here in Exeter, so Buttons curled up on our office chair for a nap and enjoying any attention he received from our CCAs.

We are hoping we will have another good weekend for some of our long stayers like Ainslee and Shanaze. These kittens came into to our centre back in July around the London 2012 Olympics. Hence their names, they are named after Ben Ainslie and Shanaze Reade. When these kittens came to us they were very tiny, only eight or nine weeks old. They were strays roaming the town all on their own. After weeks of TLC from our CCAs, they became fit and healthy kittens with lots of energy. Their brother Daley luckily found a home many months ago, now Shanaze and Ainslee are hoping it will be their turn next. 

They are looking for a nice safe permanent home where they can enjoy life to the full. If you are looking for lots of fun and hours of amusement, then these are the kittens for you! For more information please contact us via our website or follow us links to our facebook page.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Ten top tips to keep your cat safe in the snow

With severe snow fall forecast this weekend, Cats Protection’s Exeter Axhayes Adoption centre is urging owners to spare a thought for the welfare of their pet cat.

The plunging temperatures, icy conditions and heavy snowfall present a number of risks for pet cats, particularly those cats who like to wander outside. 

However following a few simple tips can help to keep cats safe:

  1. When your cat comes in from the snow, wipe off any road grit and any other substances that may stick to his paws or fur
  1. Keep the doors of sheds and outbuildings shut or wedged open, so that cats do not become trapped.  
  1. Cats may also climb into vehicle engines for warmth whilst out roaming. Be vigilant, and check under the bonnet of your vehicle before starting your vehicle 
  1. Provide some shelter for cats that have access outside, such as a designated shelter, or cardboard box partially covered with plastic sheeting
  1. Take special care of your cat if he has arthritis, as the cold can severely affect inflamed joints. Provide additional warm and comfortable places for your cat to rest or sleep. If your cat is finding it hard to reach his favourite resting places then look at ways of making it easier for him to reach his preferred places. Also ensure he can easily access his chosen toileting site
  1. If your cat uses an outdoor water source to drink, make sure it doesn’t freeze. Always have clean, fresh water available inside in case the outdoor source is inaccessible
  1. If your cat is seeing snow for the first time, then consider letting your cat wander in a safe and enclosed area such as a garden and accompany them when they do
  1. If you should let your cat wander further, then let them outside when temperatures are highest and traffic levels are lowest. Also, check your cat flap regularly to ensure it hasn’t frozen over or become blocked by snow
  1. Keep your cat in during the hours of darkness when there is a greater risk of cats being involved in road traffic accidents, theft and physical attacks 
  1. If you haven’t done so already, consider taking out pet insurance for your cat in view of the risk to your cat posed by the winter weather
For advice on cat care, please call us on 01395 232377, thank you.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Petal and Pretzel

Petal and her brother Pretzel are two of eight kittens which were born at one of our local Cats Protection branches. They came to the centre and spent a few weeks in our maternity section with their mother until they were ready for rehoming. Their mother has been rehomed and last week all eight kittens, Posie, Peabo, Pastille, Peony, Pete, Pew, Petal and Pretzel moved to our kitten corridor. In only a few days Pastille and Peony were chosen and left the centre around 2 o’clock this afternoon to their new home. Both kittens were keen to get into their cat carrier, ready to start their new life with their new family.

Petal and Pretzel are adjusting well to the busy kitten corridor and meeting the many visitors to their pen. This afternoon Petal and Pretzel enjoyed a fuss with CCA Gemma, they both purred lots. They loved tickles behind the ears, under their chins and strokes. CCA Gemma gave them a laser toy to play with. This toy was kindly donated by a member of the public just before Christmas. These kittens have not played with this toy before, the moment at was switched on they loved it. It was spiraling on their pen wall; Pretzel and Petal were sat in bed watching the laser. Petal was very excited and started pawing at the laser on the wall. Pretzel soon joined in and both kittens loved chasing the laser across the walls and floor of their pen. 


Half an hour later... Petal and Pretzel were still chasing the laser, some cats and kittens get bored after a while. Not these two. When it was switched off Petal was looking for the laser everywhere while Pretzel curled up in bed to relax. It was soon teatime. Petal and Pretzel tucked into their kitten food, it will be soon ready for bed and to wait and see what tomorrow will bring. Here's a video of them playing with the laser toy just below....    

These beautiful black kittens are looking for a home together, if you would like to adopt some lucky black kittens, please contact our centre via our facebook page or website at Thank you