No one likes cat poop, and now, unfortunately, no species can seem to escape the icky substance.
According to Live Science, a recent study published in the journal Diseases of Aquatic Organisms, which tested the hearts and brains of 34 dead beluga whales from the waters near Canada’s St. Lawrence Estuary, found that 15 whales were infected with Toxoplasma gondii at the time of their death.
Toxoplasma gondii or T. gondii is a parasite that causes a disease called toxoplasmosis. The parasite is easily spread between mammals and usually spreads from the feces of a feline that has eaten a rodent infected with the parasite.
The parasite has been linked to variety of odd mammal behaviors and health issues. Nature reported that a T. gondii infection can zap away a rat’s natural fear of cats. The parasite has also been researched in connection to premenstrual dysphoric disorder and schizophrenia in humans.
Based on this recent study, it is unclear if T. gondii played a part in the death of the beluga whales examined, though researchers have some idea how the cat poop parasite ended up in the sea creatures. All of the belugas examined lived in the waters near the St. Lawrence Estuary, a freshwater outflow into the ocean. Among the waste that flowed into the sea was likely a fair amount of infected cat poop.
To prevent T. gondii from infecting belugas and other sea mammals, like otters and dolphins, the marine researchers from the study ask pet owners not to flush cat poop down their toilets. T. gondii is a resilient parasite and can survive sewage treatment.