What Can Cats Catch from Eating Mice & Birds?

"Keep away from me, bird. I don't want your nasty parasites."
"Keep away from me, bird. I don't want your nasty parasites." (Image: George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images)

Part of the attraction of the great outdoors for Frisky is the fun she has using her hunting skills. If she's outside, her instinct will likely kick in and she'll hunt and kill birds, mice and other rodents. However, eating the catch of the day isn't very healthy for Frisky.


If you spy what looks like a grain of rice on Frisky's bottom or in her litter box or bedding, you're probably seeing tapeworm. Tapeworms are intestinal parasites that can reach several inches in length after attaching themselves to a cat's small intestine. Frisky can contract tapeworm from ingesting infected rodents, such as mice and squirrels, birds or infected fleas. It's possible for humans to become infected with feline tapeworm, but it's pretty rare (because we're less likely to eat fleas). If you suspect Frisky has tapeworm, you should have her examined by the vet. Treatment for tapeworm is straightforward, and preventives, such as monthly topicals, are quite effective at keeping tapeworm at bay.


Toxoplasmosis is not as easily detected as tapeworm, but is fairly common in cats. Cornell University notes that this parasite is found in virtually all warm-blooded species. It's no surprise that it's easy for Frisky to contract it if she decides to dine on bird or mouse one fine afternoon. If Frisky eats an infected animal, the parasite will multiply in her intestines until she sheds immature eggs, known as oocysts, in her poo.

Toxoplasmosis Symptoms

Frisky may have toxoplasmosis but not show symptoms, which is normal. A few cats develop diarrhea, lose their appetite or have problems with their eyes or lungs. If you're suspicious that she's picked up this parasite, a visit to the vet is in order. Blood tests can help diagnose toxoplasmosis, and if Frisky's test is positive, it means she's been exposed to the disease but probably isn't shedding oocysts. Antibiotics are often prescribed to address the symptoms of toxoplasmosis, but they won't kill the parasite.

Take Care

Though the risk of catching tapeworm from Frisky is low, the risk of contracting toxoplasmosis is greater. If Frisky's infected, merely holding her won't put you at risk; however, handling her soiled litter is a different matter. The oocysts are passed through her feces, so it's a good idea to wear gloves when you clean the litter box and to thoroughly wash your hands afterward. The best way to prevent Frisky from contracting these and other parasites is to keep her indoors so she can't hunt and eat infected prey.

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