The Q&A Archives: Cats in the Garden

Question: I have several large outdoor planters which are used for growing vegetables. My cats insist on using them as litter boxes. Is there any health hazard in eating the vegetables from these plants?

Answer: Cats do carry an oganism that causes toxoplasmosis. This microorganism (Toxoplasma gondii) is spread to the soil through their feces and it is transferable to humans. Pregnant women, children, those with compromised immune systems, and the elderly are particularly susceptible, pregnant women being at highest risk. You can have your cats checked for toxoplasmosis, but even if they are free from it, it doesn't mean the other cats in your neigborhood are. Also, all mammal feces contain E. coli, which can cause illness as well. Usually, you can discourage cats with a thick layer of mulch (try several pages of newsprint topped with straw). You can also try commercial repellents -- your veterinarian can make some recommendations. Best of luck!

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