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Otters and Cats

March 27, 2006

New research shows that keeping cats indoors is not only safer for them, but it also protects other cute, fuzzy animals, too.


The ocean-cat litter connection. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Cats are killing sea otters in California—but probably not how you think. Cats carry a parasite called toxoplasma that they shed in their feces, says veterinary scientist Pat Conrad of the University of California at Davis.

PAT CONRAD (University of California at Davis):
When cats deposit their feces outside those parasites are washed into rivers and those ultimately reach the ocean.

There, the parasite causes brain disease in sea otters, killing many of them outright and making others easier prey for sharks. Conrad says otters are especially vulnerable because they live near the coast, but other marine mammals such as dolphins and manatees can also get infected, as can humans. She says pet owners can help control this parasite by keeping their cats indoors and bagging all litter.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.