Number of stray cats curbed in Spain

by Lorraine Williamson
toxoplasmosis in stray cats

There is an increased risk of toxoplasmosis due to the presence of stray cats in Spanish cities. Toxoplasmosis is one of the most widespread diseases and at the same time one of the lesser known.

Stray cats increase the risk of infection and that is precisely why researchers believe that the number of stray cats should be curbed in Spain. 

Toxoplasmosis occurs almost everywhere in the world and is estimated to infect 30-50% of the world’s population. It is a unicellular parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, which causes the very common infectious disease toxoplasmosis. 

How do you get infected with toxoplasmosis? 

Almost all animal species and humans can become infected. The parasite can be found in feces of (especially young) cats, in soil contaminated by cat faeces and in raw or undercooked meat. An infection almost always enters through the mouth, either after eating raw meat or orally after someone has come into contact with cat poop. 

More people, more cats, more parasites 

One of the most recent studies on toxoplasmosis came to an important conclusion: “More people, more cats, more parasites”. Unowned cats, or stray cats, are the main culprits of toxoplasmosis infection. Stray cats often seek out more crowded areas to get their food, either from rubbish or from being fed by other people. Consequently, the high density of cats in a given environment makes it easier to transmit toxoplasmosis to other animals and to humans. 

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Number of stray cats curbed in Spain 

This conclusion means that researchers increasingly see the need to curb the number of stray cats in Spain. The amount of stray cats needs to be better controlled and more needs to be done to better protect other animals, including livestock, and humans against the transmission of this disease. 

Pregnant women are the most vulnerable

Within the European Union, only the more serious cases of toxoplasmosis are registered, for example when pregnant women are infected. Pregnant women are a vulnerable target group as an infection can lead to a miscarriage or congenital abnormalities in the child. 

What will the rest of the population notice after an infection? 

An infection with toxoplasmosis in the rest of the population often goes unnoticed as the infection rarely leads to symptoms. Possible signs of infection are not very specific: tiredness, lethargy, sometimes a little fever. 

Sometimes the patient shows a more serious clinical picture, this is especially the case if there is a reduced immune system. Severe eye infections, pneumonia and meningitis could then occur. In 10% of European HIV-infected patients, a toxoplasmosis infection causes brain abscesses and encephalitis. 

Also read: Concerns about nuisance from stray animals due to new animal welfare law

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