This is a follow-up to the original post Toilet Training Your Cat…Flushing Feces May Be Harmful to Wildlife. Please note that I made some modifications to the original post, including changing the post title and changing the headline “Flushing cat feces is killing sea otters” to “Flushing cat feces *may be* killing sea otters.” I also added a note at the bottom of the post with further clarification about cats and the parasite.
. . .
Thank you so much to everyone who sent in emails or left comments on yesterday’s post about the possible connection between flushing cat feces and dying sea otters. It is definitely a controversial topic and I’m glad we can have an open forum here where everyone can contribute and hopefully come to a better understanding of the situation.
As pointed out in the original post, there is scientific evidence that the parasite Toxoplasma gondii can be found in cat feces and that the same parasite has caused the death of sea otters in California. However, saying that flushing cat feces is killing the sea otters may be a bit extreme. Several things have been pointed out:
- Not all cats carry this parasite.
- Cats contract the parasite by coming in contact with infected rodents.
- If a cat becomes infected, they only shed the infectious oocysts (egg stage of the parasite) for a short period of time, somewhere between 10 days and three weeks, according to various sources.
- After this period, apparently the cat’s feces is no longer infectious.
- Outdoor cats are more likely to become infected by this parasite.
- The parasite may actually be killed by sewage treatment, although I’ve seen arguments on both sides of this issue. If this is the case, however, it could be assumed that the majority of parasites being passed into the ocean are from feral and outdoor cat waste being washed into storm drains, not from flushing the feces of uninfected indoor-only cats.
- I read in a couple of places that the parasite is not found in human or dog feces, only feline.
- Apparently, when infected feces is deposited into a landfill, it does not leach into the ground water because landfills have a protective barrier preventing toxic debris from leaving the landfill (disgusting, but that’s an entirely different topic and problem.)
So what does this mean?
If you have your cat’s feces tested for Toxoplasma gondii and it comes back negative AND your cat is indoor only AND any other cats that you bring into your house test negative for the parasite, it is probably okay to flush your cat’s feces, either by scooping or by toilet training your cat.
How else can you help?
- If you find cat feces outdoors from strays, ferals or indoor-outdoor housecats, DO NOT hose it down the storm drain. Instead dispose of it in the trash.
- GET INVOLVED with a local TNR (trap/neuter/return) program to help reduce the number of stray and feral cats in your area. Help to find homes for the cats who are adoptable and sterilize the feral cats so they don’t produce more homeless kittens. Someday EVERY cat will have a loving home (but that’s a completely different topic, too!)
Thanks again and please keep the comments coming!