Humans catch parasites from cats mostly through contact with cat feces. Cats infected with Toxoplasmosis gondii shed the parasite in their feces for up to two weeks. Cats infected with giardia, roundworms and hookworms can pass these on to humans through their feces for as long as the infection lasts. Parasite eggs can survive in the environment for many years, and they exist in most areas of the United States. Tapeworm infections can pass from cats to humans through ingesting fleas from infected cats.
Some intestinal parasites in cats are zoonotic, which means they can be transmitted from animals to humans. Roundworms (Ancylostoma sp.) and cat hookworms (Toxocara cati) are two intestinal parasites that can pass from cats to humans. Other zoonotic intestinal parasites include tapeworms and Toxoplasmosis gondii and Giardia species. Good hygiene helps prevent intestinal parasites in cats from infecting humans.
Parasite Transmission Routes
Effects of Parasites
Cat parasites cause eye diseases, skin diseases, diarrhea and other problems in humans. Roundworms infect 3 million to 6 million people in the United States every year, and cause a disease called visceral larva migrans, which affects the eyes and other organs. Hookworm larvae penetrate human skin and cause a condition called cutaneous larva migrans. Giardia infections cause diarrhea in cats and humans, though some cats show no symptoms. Toxoplasmosis infections in pregnant women can cause birth defects such as blindness and mental retardation. Cats don't show symptoms of toxoplasmosis infections.
Regular deworming, fecal exams and other measures help prevent cats from passing parasites to humans. Give your cat deworming tablets or other medication as recommended by your veterinarian. Wash your cat after deworming treatments. A kitten's feces should be checked for parasites by a veterinarian two to four times per year, and an adult cat's feces should be checked one or two times per year.
Don't give your cats raw meat; try to prevent them from drinking water from potentially contaminated sources, such as streams or ponds. Use flea preventive on cats to help prevent tapeworm infections.
Regular hand washing and other hygiene practices prevent cat parasites from infecting humans. Children, immunocompromised people and pregnant women are most at risk from catching parasites from cats.
Wash your hands after handling cats or cleaning up their waste, and before eating. Clean litter boxes and dispose of cat waste daily, but ask someone else to do this if you're pregnant or immunocompromised. Wear gloves when gardening, and shoes in parks, playgrounds or other areas where there may be cat feces. Wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly before eating, and don't eat undercooked meat.
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