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  • Writer's pictureBruce Goldman

Your cat can make you frail

A cat-borne parasite may contribute to muscle loss, exhaustion, and other signs of frailty in seniors, a study published in the Journals of Gerontology finds.

When cats eat animals infected with Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii for short), it multiplies in their intestines and sheds eggs in their feces. Then, when people clean out litterboxes, they become infected. While 10% have brief flu-like symptoms, most don't know they've been infected until decades later. T, gondii can hide for decades, in cysts in muscle and brain tissue.

Then, when it finally comes out of hiding, it can cause unintentional weight loss, tiredness, loss of sharpness and other cognitive problems, and speeds up sarcopenia, or age-related muscle wasting – all signs of frailty.

While the researchers failed to find a direct cause-and-effect relationship between T. gondii and frailty, they did find that those with a higher concentration of antibodies in their bloodstream were much more likely to be frail."For the first time evidence of a link between frailty in older adults and intensity of the response to T. gondii infection," said the study's co-author, Professor Blanca Laffon of the University of A Coruna in Portugal.

To protect yourself against T. gondii, the study encourages the following steps:

  • Change the litterbox daily, and wash hands afterwards.

  • Keep cats indoors.

  • Avoid stray cats.

T. gondii isn't the only the only threat to your independence. Different people have different needs, and at Senior Insights our detailed assessment determines exactly what yours are. The assessment includes interviews with the senior and his or her family and covers three areas with major effects on a seniors' lives: physical, psychosocial, and mental status. We identify the gaps in the senior's safety net and tell you what care is needed and who is best suited to deliver it.

Please contact us to learn more about what difference that can make.

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