Research Article - (2013) Volume 4, Issue 4
Parasitological examination using concentration techniques, which included sedimentation (Formol-Ether) and floatation technique (Sucrose) were employed on the faecal samples of twenty-six (26) cats, comprising of juveniles and adult cats. The cats were stray cats roaming around the study areas. Ten (10) different types of parasites were found to be infecting the cats. Mixed infection with more than one genus of helminthes was also observed. The public health significance of the parasites and the need for their control were discussed.
Keywords: Gastrointestinal parasites; Stray cats; Public health; Hospitals; Sokoto; Nigeria
People’s reasons for having cats vary, but most owners indicate that personality and appearance are important features . The cat still controls rodents, but closer contact with humans is adding new dimensions of purpose . These stray cats are also important in the epidemiology of feline diseases in Nigeria . They constitute a pertinent reservoir for parasites transmitted to man .
It has been known for over 29 years that helminthes parasites of cats are capable of infecting man and causing disease , since then, a considerable body of literature has accumulated on the epidemiology and public health aspects of feline helminth parasites .
Cats and other felines act as definitive hosts for many intestinal parasites, some of which are responsible for several zoonotic diseases, such as toxocariasis. It is caused by the ascarids of dogs and cats: Toxocara canis and Toxocara cati, respectively [6,7]. The close association between cats and humans is responsible for the high endemicity of some of these zoonotic diseases . The cestodes, nematodes and acanthocephalans have been identified in the intestine of stray and pet cats in various countries. Transmission of certain helminth parasites of carnivores to domestic animals and man causes economic problems and public health hazards . Therefore, the study of the parasite fauna of carnivores, such as stray cats in various parts of the country is necessary for control of these diseases, which apart from affecting the health of the animal species, also can affect humans.
Gastrointestinal parasites constitute a major source of diseases for cats in the tropics, and have been recognized as important public health problems in several parts of the world . Studies of gastrointestinal parasites of cats in several parts of the country have been limited to the stray cat population . In Sokoto, like it is in so many villages, towns and cities in Nigeria, a large number of cats for which neither housing nor food are provided, roam around to fend for them and breed. These are the categories cats commonly found in the two hospitals in this study.
Area of study
The study covers 2 hospitals herein designated as hospital A and hospital B. Period of sample collection was from February to April, 2007.
Post-mortem examinations were carried out on 26 domestic stray cats collected from Hospital A and Hospital B, Sokoto, after being euthanatized with 10% chloroform. After physical examination and before performing necropsy on the cats, their sexes and age-weight were noted, juveniles (<1.4 kg) and adults (>1.5 kg), as described by Sharif et al. . After euthanasia, gastrointestinal tract from the pylorus to the caecum was removed and examined microscopically for parasites using procedure carried out by Abu-Madi et al. . All adult helminthes were collected, preserved and identified as described by Yamaguti .
This was based on microscopic appearance of the eggs, cysts, and/ or larvae encountered during examination of each of the samples under 10X and 40X magnification. Microscopic appearances of the parasites were then compared with those in standard texts, literature and micrographs.
Methods of examination
Concentration methods, which included sedimentation using formol-ether and floatation technique using sucrose, were employed. Flotation procedures vary from the simple to the complex. The simplest procedure involves mixing a small amount of feces with flotation solution in a cylinder (shell vial or centrifuge tube), and then adding solution, until the cylinder is nearly full . A further refinement of the flotation technique involves centrifugation to spin down the debris and allow the eggs to float to the surface of the solution, where they can be recovered . The procedure of the two techniques was carried, out as described by Dryden et al. .
Altogether, 26 stray cats were used in this study. Parasitological examination revealed 10 different parasites (Table 1). Fourteen (14) (53.85%) were males, 12 (46.15%) were females. Based on the ages, matured cats 10 (38.46%) and kittens 16 (61.54%). Overall, 21 (80.77%) of the cats from the 2 hospitals were positive for one parasite or another (Table 2). Toxocara cati and Ancylostoma tubaefome had the highest prevalence with 5 (16.67%) prevalence each.
|Parasites||Hospitals A and B|
|Taenia taeniformis||2 (6.67%)|
|Aelurostrongylus abstrusus||2 (6.67%)|
|Ancylostoma tubaeforme||5 (16.67%)|
|Isospora spp||4 (13.33%)|
|Toxocara cati||5 (16.67%)|
|Toxoplasma gondii||4 (13.33%)|
|Dypilidium caninum||4 (13.33%)|
|Physaloptera canis||1 (3.33%)|
|Gnathostoma spinigerum||2 (6.67%)|
|Toxocara leonina||1 (3.33%)|
Table 1: Parasites identified in the cats from Hospitals A and B (n=30).
Higher figures were reported by Umeche and Ima  for Toxocara cati, (28.85%), Ancylostoma tubaeforme, (19.23%), Dipylidium caninum (23.08%) and Taenia taeniaeformis (9.61%), in a study on 52 cats undertaken in Calabar, Nigeria. This is in contrast with figures of 16.67% for both T. cati and Ancylostoma tuberforme, 13.33% for D. caninum and 6.67% for T. taeniaeformis reported in this study. This could be from the difference in the techniques employed. Formol-ether and sucrose were used in our study, as against direct smear and zinc sulphate flotation technique used in the other. However, in both two studies, no trematode parasites were detected. Taenia taeniaeformis is associated with rodents hunted by cats. This further confirms the stray status of the cats used in this study. Six (6) different genera of both helminthes and protozoan parasites encountered were: in the samples examined namely: Ancylostoma spp, Toxocara cati, Gnathostoma spinigerum, Toxocara leonina, Toxoplasma gondii and Dypilidium caninum are of public health significance. That 21, out of a total of 26 cats, were positive for different parasites, also suggests lack of veterinary medical attention and the stray status of the cats. Abu-Madi et al.  reported prevalence rates of 75.8% for T. taeniaeformis, 42.8% for Dipylidium spp. 17.0% for A. tubaeforme, 6.6% for Physaloptera spp. and 0.8% for T. cati in stray cat populations in Qatar. Compared to results in this study, results for T. taeniaeformis and Dipylidium spp. and lower for A. tubaeforme and Physaloptera sp.
For the purpose of this study, stray cats sampled were categorized into two distinct age groups: Juveniles (0-2 years) and adults (2 years and above). Results from this study indicates that adults had a great prevalence of intestinal parasites (100%) than the juveniles (75%) (Table 2). There was no satisfactory significant association. (P=0.1358). This is in agreement with the findings of Abu-Madi et al. , who reported higher prevalence of T. taeniaeformis and Dipylidium spp in adult cats compared to the juveniles sampled in this study. This can be attributed to the profound hunting ability of the adult stray cats.
Fisher’s Exact Test: P=0.1358, not significant.
Table 2: Distribution of intestinal parasite in different age groups of stray cats.
Distribution of intestinal parasites in the stray cats sampled in this study showed that males had a higher prevalence of the parasites (92.8%) than the females (75%). However, this difference in prevalence between males and females is not statistically significant (P=0.3061) (Table 3). The results obtained in this study contradict that of Zibaei et al.  in Iran who reported a higher prevalence in the females than the males.
Fisher’s Exact Test: P=0.3061, not significant.
Table 3: Distribution of intestinal parasites in male and female stray cats.
Analysis of the intestinal parasites distribution among the two hospitals studied shows that stray cats in Hospital A had higher prevalence than that of Hospital B. The difference is however not significant statistically (P=0.6348) (Table 4).
Fisher’s Exact Test: P=0.6348, not significant.
Table 4: Distribution of intestinal parasites of stray cats in the hospitals (A and B).
These cats constitute health hazards to the patient in particular, as they are found both around the hospital environment as wells as within the wards (Figure 1), competing with the patients and their relatives for what to eat. Since many people are not conversant with the public health risks associated with contacts with these cats, they are paradoxically treated as formidable companions, and thus, relished and played with. Despite the remarkable research carried out so far on gastrointestinal parasites of cats in various parts of the country and the world at large, little has been done to investigate and evaluate the prevalence of gastrointestinal parasites of cats in the two hospitals in Sokoto metropolis, Sokoto, Nigeria. The prevalence rates of parasites in stray cats in this study suggest the need to discourage the breeding of stray cats, and to disallow cats gaining access to hospital wards.