Occurrence of parasites and zoonotic diseases in feral and privately-owned cats in Murray KY

Project Abstract

The objective of my research is to determine how the parasite load in client-owned and feral cats relates to zoonotic diseases that are potentially carried by these cats. I will test the null hypothesis that parasite load is not correlated with the presence of organisms that cause zoonotic diseases. I will also test the null hypothesis that parasite load and the occurrence of zoonotic diseases does not differ between feral and privately-owned cats. My methods include obtaining voided fecal samples from the cats by working with the Murray-Calloway County Humane Society Feral Cat Spay-and-Neuter Program in trapping feral cats and working with cat owners in Calloway County to obtain the fecals from privately-owned cats. I will measure the parasite load in the feces through direct fecal smear, centrifuged fecal flotation, McMaster flotation technique, and acid fast fecal stain. The centrifuged fecal flotation will concentrate parasites present onto a slide and will easily be evaluated under a microscope. If parasites are present in the centrifuged fecal flotation, then the parasite load will be quantified using a modification of the McMaster flotation technique. The direct stain and the centrifuged fecal flotation will be done to determine the presence of motile trophozoite parasites such as Giardia. The acid-fast fecal will be done to detect Cryptosporidium. Other zoonotic microorganisms that will be detected through the combination of the four tests include Toxocara, Balisascaris, Ancylostoma, and Eucoleus aerophila. My research is significant because understanding feral cats and their health is important to local communities due to many of the zoonotic diseases that these cats can transmit to people. These diseases can be passed from feral and privately-owned animals as well as through inanimate objects left outside that may come in contact with the carrier. Testing my first hypothesis of parasite load being correlated with the presence of zoonotic diseases will provide information on the prevalence of zoonotic disease in cats in our local area. It also allows insight into prevention of the spread of these diseases through parasite prevention in feral cats and allows for new prevention ideas in conjunction with spay-and-neuter other than extermination. Testing the occurrence of zoonotic diseases between feral and privately-owned cats is also significant in terms of understanding the possible issues with reintroducing feral cats into domestic populations and the extent to which privately-owned cats pose a health risk to nearby humans and animals.

Funding Type

Research Grant

Academic College

Jesse D. Jones College of Science, Engineering and Technology


Veterinary Technology/pre-Vet emphasis


B.S. in Agriculture




Terry Derting

Academic College

Jesse D. Jones College of Science, Engineering and Technology

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