Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a parasite known as Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii), which forms egg-like structures called oocysts. Infection occurs in humans either through eating raw or undercooked lamb, pork or kangaroo or, more commonly, through contact with infected animal faeces. Cats are the main hosts acquiring T. gondii by eating infected birds or rodents and then passing the infection onto their human handlers.
T. gondii is not transmittable by person to person contact.
Whilst a very serious illness in pregnant women and/or people with a compromised immune system (ie. customers with HIV/AIDS or undergoing treatment that suppresses immunity such as chemotherapy) the risk of infection from the cats at the Hobart Cat Café is miniscule due to their lack of access to infected prey, the lack of incubation time for the oocysts in litter trays and the lack of contact between visitors and cat faeces. In most cases Toxoplasmosis does not cause any symptoms aside from a presence of antibodies against the Toxoplasmosis parasite in the blood.
Symptoms, if they do occur, are similar to that of influenza including swollen lymph glands (especially around the neck), muscle aches and pains, headache, fever and generally feeling unwell, as well as inflammation of the lungs, heart muscles and eyes (especially the retina). T. gondii is known to cause a long-term infection with a small amount of parasites locked inside cysts in parts of your body. Generally, your immune system will easily destroy any parasites that escape these cysts.
The most serious risk of Toxoplasmosis is to babies in the womb when a woman contracts Toxoplasmosis for the first time whilst pregnant. Most unborn babies won’t be affected at all but a minority may be harmed by infection. Effects on unborn babies can include rashes, damage to the nervous system, mental retardation, hardening of the brain tissue (Cerebral calcification), liver and eye damage and in rare cases fetal death.
If you are pregnant or have a compromised immune system it is suggested you take precautions against Toxoplasmosis. We’d suggest you consult your GP for advice explaining your intention to visit the Hobart Cat Café and bring a print out of this information sheet.
Precautions against Toxoplasmosis that are relevant to your visit include not eating raw, blue, rare or medium-rare meat dishes, washing hands thoroughly before eating, not touching any cat faeces and generallly avoiding cross contamination between your hands, mouth and cat paws / bottoms at all times.
As mentioned above we have taken every precaution to avoid any danger of infection. Our cats enjoy a safe and stable indoor lifestyle and have no access to birds or rodents. T. gondii is only infectious for a few weeks after the cat ingests a host carrying the parasite, and requires an incubation time in litter trays for the oocysts to become infectious. We completely clean and change our cats litter trays every 48 hours and feed only Hill’s Science Diet or Royal Canin dry cat foods, meaning the chance of them contracting T. gondii is extremely low and the chance of them passing it on to a visitor is even lower.