Sunday, February 11, 2007

ILLINOIS STYLE: Researchers track parasite in feral cats

So they're embarking on a study of free-ranging cats near the UI's South Farms. The study might tell them not only where the felines go, but when and how often. It also might reveal the frequency with which the roving cats cross paths with livestock and wildlife such as migratory birds, not to mention with people.
That's of particular interest, in part, because cats are the "definitive host" of a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, natural history survey scientist Nohra Mateus-Pinilla said. Which is to say that cats are the only animal known to provide a home for the parasite during its reproduction cycle, said Mateus-Pinilla, a veterinary wildlife epidemiologist and a principal investigator on two cat studies planned this year.
In addition to the South Farms research, a related project will examine free-ranging cats in the UI's Allerton Park near Monticello, providing the first look at their impact on the spread of Toxoplasma gondii to wildlife in a natural area.

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