Study finds many Ohio deer infected by house cats

Posted: December 31, 2014 by gamegetterII in deer hunting
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December 29, 2014 5:00 am  • 

If you’re deer hunting in an area known to have a lot of feral house cats, you might want to make sure you cook your venison properly.

That’s because a new study published in the journal EcoHealth has found that a large percentage of whitetail deer in the greater Cleveland, Ohio, area are infected with a parasite associated with feral domestic cats.

“This study documents the widespread infection of deer populations in northeastern Ohio, most likely resulting from feral cats, and highlights the need for consumers of venison to make absolutely certain that any deer meat planned for consumption is thoroughly and properly cooked,” said Gregory Ballash of the Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine at Ohio State University and lead author of the study.

Two hundred free-roaming cats and 444 white-tailed deer were tested for the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which causes toxoplasmosis. Almost 60 percent (261) of the deer showed evidence of infection and more than 65 percent (164) of the studied cats tested positive.

According to the report, approximately 14 percent of the United States’ human population is infected with toxoplasmosis by the age of 40, with an estimated 1 million new cases diagnosed each year. Cats, both domestic and wild (such as bobcats), play a critical role in the spread of toxoplasmosis because they serve as the definitive hosts, fulfilling the requirements needed for the parasite to sexually reproduce and complete its life cycle.

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