Title

Parasite load as an indicator for zoonotic disease prevalence in feral cats versus shelter cats.

Academic Level at Time of Presentation

Senior

Major

pre vet

Minor

chemistry

List all Project Mentors & Advisor(s)

Terry L Derting, PhD; Barbie Papajeski, MS, LVT, RLATG, VTS (Clinical Pathology)

Presentation Format

Poster Presentation

Abstract/Description

Feral cats are a public health concern due to their potential to carry zoonotic microorganisms such as Giardia lamblia, Baylisascaris, and hookworms. The objective of our study was to quantify the prevalence of zoonotic microorganisms in animal shelter and feral cats by comparing parasite load and the prevalence of zoonotic disease. Our null hypotheses were that there is no significant 1) relationship between parasite load and presence of zoonotic disease and 2) difference in zoonotic disease prevalence between shelter and feral cats. Partnering with the Murray Calloway County Humane Society, we caught feral cats using tomahawk® traps. Voided feces from the cats (n=10) were collected and the number of parasite eggs per g of feces, Cryptosporidium presence, and prevalence of parasite taxa were determined. Fecal samples from cats at the Calloway County Animal Shelter (n=16) were also collected and analyzed. We rejected both of our hypotheses. Cats with zoonotic microorganisms had twice as many parasite taxa in their feces compared with cats with no zoonotic microorganisms. On average, feral cats had 16x the number of parasite eggs per g of feces compared with shelter cats. All feral cats harbored at least one zoonotic taxa, while Giardia was only present in shelter cats. Our results indicate that feral cats may pose a health threat to humans in Calloway Co. Public health concerns relating to feral cats can be mitigated with programs such as “trap, neuter, and release” which are designed to prevent the spread of feral cats.

Spring Scholars Week 2019 Event

Sigma Xi Poster Competition (Juried)

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Parasite load as an indicator for zoonotic disease prevalence in feral cats versus shelter cats.

Feral cats are a public health concern due to their potential to carry zoonotic microorganisms such as Giardia lamblia, Baylisascaris, and hookworms. The objective of our study was to quantify the prevalence of zoonotic microorganisms in animal shelter and feral cats by comparing parasite load and the prevalence of zoonotic disease. Our null hypotheses were that there is no significant 1) relationship between parasite load and presence of zoonotic disease and 2) difference in zoonotic disease prevalence between shelter and feral cats. Partnering with the Murray Calloway County Humane Society, we caught feral cats using tomahawk® traps. Voided feces from the cats (n=10) were collected and the number of parasite eggs per g of feces, Cryptosporidium presence, and prevalence of parasite taxa were determined. Fecal samples from cats at the Calloway County Animal Shelter (n=16) were also collected and analyzed. We rejected both of our hypotheses. Cats with zoonotic microorganisms had twice as many parasite taxa in their feces compared with cats with no zoonotic microorganisms. On average, feral cats had 16x the number of parasite eggs per g of feces compared with shelter cats. All feral cats harbored at least one zoonotic taxa, while Giardia was only present in shelter cats. Our results indicate that feral cats may pose a health threat to humans in Calloway Co. Public health concerns relating to feral cats can be mitigated with programs such as “trap, neuter, and release” which are designed to prevent the spread of feral cats.