Parasites passed by cats are killing sea otters, who contract encephalitis when the pathogen enters their brains. Toxoplasma gondii enters the ocean via outfalls and becomes concentrated in filter-feeding animals like mussels and crabs – a favorite of otters. Surveys showed that 76 percent of otters near urban outfalls harbored the parasite.
Cats become infected after eating wild animals and can shed millions of long-lived eggs even when they show no symptoms. The pathogen can survive wastewater treatment so all litter and feces should go in the trash (composting does not kill parasite eggs). Be sure to pick up feces outside too as pathogens also enter the ocean via run-off.
Protect sea otters – don’t flush kitty litter down the toilet. A parasite carried by cats is entering the ocean via storm drains and outfalls, causing disease in this already threatened species.