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Here's all you ever wanted to know about the parasite in cat poop.

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March of Dimes

Americans love cats.

And what’s not to love? They’re cute, playful, and goofy. Plus they are the darlings of the internet. What would any of us even do if cat videos didn’t exist on the internet?

Who doesn't love shark cat? GIF via Keith Johnson/YouTube.


Cats are the best, and we know that they love us, but they can also accidentally make us sick.

Yes, it's true. Cats are the source of an extremely common parasite called Toxoplasma gondii that reproduces exclusively inside cats. And once infected, cats poop out T. gondii eggs — called oocysts — and these eggs have a tendency to make their way into humans and other mammals. This can then cause the disease toxoplasmosis, which can be very dangerous.

It's not their fault — cats don't want to have this parasite any more than you do — and we don't blame them, but it's still a reality that we both have to face. So, how do we deal with it?

To help answer that, here are nine things that your cat wants you to know about this little parasite:

1. It's difficult to know if your cat has the parasite.

Cats rarely have symptoms, so most people don't know if their cat is infected with this parasite. But it's more common among kitties that go outdoors or that eat undercooked or raw meat.

It's best to stick to feeding kitty canned, dried, or well-cooked food. GIF via The Daily/YouTube.

2. This parasite lays A LOT of eggs, but keeping your cat’s litter box clean reduces the risk.

A cat acutely infected by T. gondii can shed up to 500 million oocysts in just two weeks through its poop. These eggs survive a long time — up to one year — in warm climates with moist soil or seawater. And it could take just one egg to infect a human.

But if you change the litter box every day, you lower your risk of infection (and stinky litter smell) substantially. The oocysts don’t actually become infectious for one to five days.  So don't forget to scoop and wash your paws — I mean hands — afterward!

3. So ... you might already be infected with the T. gondiiparasite.

Whaaat? GIF via Loves cat/YouTube.

About 2 billion people worldwide — including 60 million in the United States — are already infected with the parasite from (accidentally) ingesting cat feces or from drinking contaminated water, eating undercooked meat (of animals that grazed or hunted in an area where a cat lived), handling unwashed produce, or just from cleaning an infected cat's litter box.

4. But even if you are infected, if you have a healthy immune systems, you’ll likely be fine.

There's no need to turn into a scaredy cat. Even though many, many people are infected, few ever get symptoms. That’s because a healthy immune system is normally strong enough to keep the parasite from causing any illness.

5.  BUT, T. gondii can be a pretty big deal if you’re pregnant.

Image via iStock.

If you are pregnant, HIV-positive, or already have another infection that weakens your immune system, you run the risk of developing some of the worst symptoms, such as headaches, seizures, confusion, and organ damage — most often to the back of the eye. There are treatment options available though, if your doctor thinks they are necessary.

If you get infected for the first time while you are pregnant, the parasite may cross the placenta to your baby, causing a congenital parasitic infection that can result in the child being stillborn or born prematurely. In some cases, the infection can also damage the baby’s eyes, brain, nervous system, skin, and ears.

The majority of newborns who are infected will not show signs for months or years after birth, though. But, if left untreated, this infection can cause some serious health problems later in life.

6. So if you are planning to have a baby, get tested for it.

If you have already been infected before you get pregnant, you usually won’t pass the infection to your baby because you have likely built up an immunity to the infection.  

7. And no, getting pregnant doesn't mean you have to give up your cat!

Don't go! GIF via RedMistNinja/YouTube.

According to the CDC, you can keep your feline BFF even if you are pregnant or have a weakened immune system. Just be extra vigilant while you are pregnant. For example, take a well-earned break from the pooper scooper and have someone else clean the litter box for you (maybe while you take a cat nap). Also, keep your kitty off the kitchen counter, and don't adopt any new kittens — no matter how huggable — until after the baby is born!

8. You don’t even need to have a pet cat to be infected.

You are actually more likely to get the parasite from gardening or eating undercooked meat than directly from a cat.

9. Yes, the parasite does cause weird behavior in mice. But no, we do not know that it causes weird behavior in humans.

It is true that ​infected mice and rats display a number of behavioral changes, such as losing their aversion to the smell of cats and their urine — which, of course, makes them easier for cats to catch them. T. gondiihas been blamed for a whole bunch of human behavioral changes, including slower response times (causing more car wrecks) and mental illness, such as schizophrenia.  But as of right now, these appear to still be just theories. Nothing has been proven.

Cats have been our buddies for a long time.

Image by Simone Scully/Upworthy.

Cats have worked their way into our hearts, and they bring a number of benefits. Not only are they great companions, but they also lower stress and blood pressure, which, according to one study, could reduce our risk of heart attack and strokes by more than one third.  And these purring cuddle-buddies also help us sleep, according to a study from the Mayo Clinic Center for Sleep Medicine.

Cats know how to melt our stress away. GIF via Nakuspienne/YouTube.

So while, yes, they can accidentally make us sick, if we take some precautions to avoid this parasite, we can continue enjoying our snuggly little companions for all of their nine lives.  

A young mom with her kids in the ER.

Sage Pasch’s unique family situation has attracted a lot of attention recently. The 20-something mother of 2 shared a 6-second TikTok video on September 29 that has been viewed over 33 million times because it shows how hard it can be for young moms to be taken seriously.

In the video, the young-looking Pasch took her son Nick to the ER after he injured his leg at school. But when the family got to the hospital, the doctor couldn’t believe Pasch was his mother. “POV, we’re at the ER, and the doctor didn’t believe I was the parent,” she captioned the post.


Pasch and her fiancé , Luke Faircloth, adopted the teen in 2022 after his parents tragically died two years apart. “Nick was already spending so much time with us, so it made sense that we would continue raising him,” Pasch told Today.com.

The couple also has a 17-month-old daughter named Lilith.

@coffee4lifesage

He really thought i was lying😭

Pasch says that people are often taken aback by her family when they are out in public. "Everybody gets a little confused because my fiancé and I are definitely younger to have a teenager," she said. "It can be very frustrating."

It may be hard for the young parents to be taken seriously, but their story has made a lot of people in a similar situation feel seen. "Omg, I feel this. I took my son to the ER, and they asked for the guardian. Yes, hi, that's me," Brittany wrote in the comments. "Meee with my teenager at a parent-teacher conference. They think I’m her older sister and say we need to talk with your parents," KatMonroy added.


This article originally appeared on 10.24.23

Photo from Facebook.

Anna Trupiano educates on passing gas in public.

Anna Trupiano is a first-grade teacher at a school that serves deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing students from birth through eighth grade.

In addition to teaching the usual subjects, Trupiano is charged with helping her students thrive in a society that doesn't do enough to cater to the needs of the hard-of-hearing.


Recently, Trupiano had to teach her students about a rather personal topic: passing gas in public.

A six-year-old child farted so loud in class that some of their classmates began to laugh. The child was surprised by their reaction because they didn't know farts make a sound. This created a wonderful and funny teaching moment for Trupiano.

Trupiano shared the conversation on Facebook.

1st grade, farts, passing gas

"Wait, they can hear all farts?!?!"

See posts, photos and more on Facebook.

deaf, education, funny

An education reduced to conversations on farts.

See posts, photos and more on Facebook.

hard of hearing, vapors, gas

The discerning listener.

See posts, photos and more on Facebook.

While the discussion Trupiano had with her students was funny, it points to a serious problem faced by the deaf community. "I know it started with farts, but the real issue is that many of my students aren't able to learn about these things at home or from their peers because they don't have the same linguistic access," she told GOOD.

"So many of my students don't have families who can sign well enough to explain so many things it's incredibly isolating for these kids," she continued.

Trupiano hopes her funny story about bodily functions will inspire others to become more involved with the deaf community by learning sign language.

"I would love to see a world where my students can learn about anything from anyone they interact with during their day," she told GOOD. "Whether that means learning about the solar system, the candy options at a store, or even farts, it would be so great for them to have that language access anywhere they go."

Interested in learning ASL? Here's a great list of places you can start.

While the discussion Tupiano had with her students was funny, it points to a serious problem faced by the deaf community. "I know it started with farts, but the real issue is that many of my students aren't able to learn about these things at home or from their peers because they don't have the same linguistic access," she told GOOD.

"So many of my students don't have families who can sign well enough to explain so many things it's incredibly isolating for these kids," she continued.

Tupiano hopes her funny story about bodily functions will inspire others to become more involved with the deaf community by learning sign language.

"I would love to see a world where my students can learn about anything from anyone they interact with during their day," she told GOOD. "Whether that means learning about the solar system, the candy options at a store, or even farts, it would be so great for them to have that language access anywhere they go."

Intersted in learning ASL? Here's a great list of places you can start.


This article originally appeared on 12.14.18

Joy

Gen X has hit 'that stage' of life and is not handling it very well

We are NOT prepared for Salt-n-Pepa to replace Michael McDonald in the waiting room at the doctor's office, thankyouverymuch.

Gen X is eating dinner earlier and earlier. It's happening.

The thing about Gen X being in our 40s and 50s now is that we were never supposed to get "old." Like, we're the cool, aloof grunge generation of young tech geniuses. Most of the giants that everyone uses every day—Google, Amazon, YouTube—came from Gen X. Our generation is both "Friends" and "The Office." We are, like, relevant, dammit.

And also, our backs hurt, we need reading glasses, our kids are in college and how in the name of Jennifer Aniston's skincare regimen did we get here?

It's weird to reach the stage when there's no doubt that you aren't young anymore. Not that Gen X is old—50 is the new 30, you know—but we're definitely not young. And it seems like every day there's something new that comes along to shove that fact right in our faces. When did hair start growing out of that spot? Why do I suddenly hate driving at night? Why is this restaurant so loud? Does that skin on my arm look…crepey?


As they so often do, Penn and Kim Holderness from The Holderness Family have captured the Gen X existential crisis in a video that has us both nodding a long and laughing out loud. Salt-n-Pepa in the waiting room at the doctor's office? Uh, no. That's a line we are not ready to cross yet. Nirvana being played on the Classic Rock station? Nope, not prepared for that, either.

Watch:

Hoo boy, the denial is real, isn't it? We grew up on "Choose Your Own Adventure" books, for goodness sake, and it's starting to feel like we made a wrong choice a chapter or two back and suddenly landed our entire generation in a time warp. This isn't real, is it? Thirty years ago was the 1970s. That's just a Gen X fact. So what if we've lived long enough for our high school fashions to go out of style and then back into style and then back out of style again?

Seriously, though, we can either lament our age and stage in life or we can laugh about it, and people are grateful to the Holdernesses for assisting with the latter. Gen X fans are also thrilled to see their own experiences being validated, because at this point, we've all had that moment in the grocery store or the waiting room when one of our jams came on and we immediately went into a panic.

"They were playing The Cure in the grocery store and I almost started crying," wrote one commenter. "I mean, how 'alternative' can you be if you're being played in Krogers? You guys are great! Thanks for making us laugh."

"I couldn’t believe it when I heard Bohemian Rhapsody being played in Walmart," shared another. "That was edgy in my day."

"I know!!! Bon Jovi at the grocery store!!! That was my clue in!!" added another.

"Long live Gen Xers! We have to be strong!! We can get through this together!! #NKOTBmeetsAARP" wrote on commenter.You can find more from the Holderness Family on their Facebook page, their podcast and their website, theholdernessfamily.com.


This article originally appeared on 1.28.24

Science

She tattooed half her face and you'd never know it. Her skills are just that good.

This incredible medical tattoo technology is giving renewed hope to burn victims.

All images via the CBS/YouTube

Basma Hameed runs a tattoo shop, of sorts...


Meet Samira Omar.

The 17-year-old was the victim of a horrific bullying incident.



A group of girls threw boiling water on her, leaving her badly burned and covered in scars and discoloration.

tattoo shop, hate crime, artistry

17-year-old Samira Omar

All images by CBC News/YouTube

She thought the physical scars would be with her forever — until she met Basma Hameed. Basma Hameed runs a tattoo shop, of sorts — but her tattoo artistry doesn't look like you'd expect. Basma is a paramedical tattoo specialist. Instead of tattooing vibrant, colorful designs, she uses special pigments that match the skin in order to conceal scars.

It looks like this:

human condition, diversity, equality

Basma looking at Samira’s facial scarring.

assets.rebelmouse.io

disabilities, health, reproductive rights,

Basma talking over the procedure.

assets.rebelmouse.io

body image, scarring, community

Visible scars and discoloration of the skin.

assets.rebelmouse.io

humanity, culture, treatment

Tattooing the visible scarring on her hand

assets.rebelmouse.io

With Basma's help, patients like Samira can see a dramatic decrease in their scar visibility and discoloration after a few treatments. She even offers free procedures for patients who are unable to afford treatment. That's because Basma knows firsthand just how life-changing her work can be for those coping with painful scars left behind.

Check out the video below to find out more about Basma's practice, including how she became her very first patient.

This article originally appeared on 01.12.15

Parenting

10 ways kids appear to be acting naughty but actually aren't

Many of kids' so-called 'bad' behaviors are actually normal developmental acts of growing up.

Photo by Allen Taylor on Unsplash
two toddler pillow fighting

When we recognize kids' unwelcome behaviors as reactions to environmental conditions, developmental phases, or our own actions, we can respond proactively, and with compassion.

Here are 10 ways kids may seem like they're acting "naughty" but really aren't. And what parents can do to help.


1. They can't control their impulses.

Ever say to your kid, "Don't throw that!" and they throw it anyway?

Research suggests the brain regions involved in self-control are immature at birth and don't fully mature until the end of adolescence, which explains why developing self-control is a "long, slow process."

A recent survey revealed many parents assume children can do things at earlier ages than child-development experts know to be true. For example, 56% of parents felt that children under the age of 3 should be able to resist the desire to do something forbidden whereas most children don't master this skill until age 3 and a half or 4.

What parents can do: Reminding ourselves that kids can't always manage impulses (because their brains aren't fully developed) can inspire gentler reactions to their behavior.


2. They experience overstimulation.

We take our kids to Target, the park, and their sister's play in a single morning and inevitably see meltdowns, hyperactivity, or outright resistance. Jam-packed schedules, overstimulation, and exhaustion are hallmarks of modern family life.

Research suggests that 28% of Americans "always feel rushed" and 45% report having "no excess time." Kim John Payne, author of "Simplicity Parenting," argues that children experience a "cumulative stress reaction" from too much enrichment, activity, choice, and toys. He asserts that kids need tons of "down time" to balance their "up time."

What parents can do: When we build in plenty of quiet time, playtime, and rest time, children's behavior often improves dramatically.

3. Kids' physical needs affect their mood.

Ever been "hangry" or completely out of patience because you didn't get enough sleep? Little kids are affected tenfold by such "core conditions" of being tired, hungry, thirsty, over-sugared, or sick.

Kids' ability to manage emotions and behavior is greatly diminished when they're tired. Many parents also notice a sharp change in children's behavior about an hour before meals, if they woke up in the night, or if they are coming down with an illness.

What parents can do: Kids can't always communicate or "help themselves" to a snack, a Tylenol, water, or a nap like adults can. Help them through routines and prep for when that schedule might get thrown off.

woman hugging boy on her lapPhoto by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

4. They can't tame their expression of big feelings.

As adults, we've been taught to tame and hide our big emotions, often by stuffing them, displacing them, or distracting from them. Kids can't do that yet.

What parents can do: Early-childhood educator Janet Lansbury has a great phrase for when kids display powerful feelings such as screaming, yelling, or crying. She suggests that parents "let feelings be" by not reacting or punishing kids when they express powerful emotions. (Psst: "Jane the Virgin" actor Justin Baldoni has some tips on parenting through his daughter's grocery store meltdown.)

5. Kids have a developmental need for tons of movement.

"Sit still!" "Stop chasing your brother around the table!" "Stop sword fighting with those pieces of cardboard!" "Stop jumping off the couch!"

Kids have a developmental need for tons of movement. The need to spend time outside, ride bikes and scooters, do rough-and-tumble play, crawl under things, swing from things, jump off things, and race around things.

What parents can do: Instead of calling a child "bad" when they're acting energetic, it may be better to organize a quick trip to the playground or a stroll around the block.

a young boy running through a sprinkle of waterPhoto by MI PHAM on Unsplash

6. They're defiant.

Every 40- and 50-degree day resulted in an argument at one family's home. A first-grader insisted that it was warm enough to wear shorts while mom said the temperature called for pants. Erik Erikson's model posits that toddlers try to do things for themselves and that preschoolers take initiative and carry out their own plans.

What parents can do: Even though it's annoying when a child picks your tomatoes while they're still green, cuts their own hair, or makes a fort with eight freshly-washed sheets, they're doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing — trying to carry out their own plans, make their own decisions, and become their own little independent people. Understanding this and letting them try is key.

7. Sometimes even their best traits can trip them up.

It happens to all of us — our biggest strengths often reflect our weaknesses. Maybe we're incredibly focused, but can't transition very easily. Maybe we're intuitive and sensitive but take on other people's negative moods like a sponge.

Kids are similar: They may be driven in school but have difficulty coping when they mess up (e.g., yelling when they make a mistake). They may be cautious and safe but resistant to new activities (e.g., refusing to go to baseball practice). They may live in the moment but aren't that organized (e.g., letting their bedroom floor become covered with toys).

What parents can do: Recognizing when a child's unwelcome behaviors are really the flip side of their strengths — just like ours — can help us react with more understanding.

8. Kids have a fierce need for play.

Your kid paints her face with yogurt, wants you to chase her and "catch her" when you're trying to brush her teeth, or puts on daddy's shoes instead of her own when you're racing out the door. Some of kids' seemingly "bad" behaviors are what John Gottman calls "bids" for you to play with them.

Kids love to be silly and goofy. They delight in the connection that comes from shared laughter and love the elements of novelty, surprise, and excitement.

What parents can do: Play often takes extra time and therefore gets in the way of parents' own timelines and agendas, which may look like resistance and naughtiness even when it's not. When parents build lots of playtime into the day, kids don't need to beg for it so hard when you're trying to get them out the door.

9. They are hyperaware and react to parents' moods.

Multiple research studies on emotional contagion have found that it only takes milliseconds for emotions like enthusiasm and joy, as well as sadness, fear, and anger, to pass from person to person, and this often occurs without either person realizing it. Kids especially pick up on their parents' moods. If we are stressed, distracted, down, or always on the verge of frustrated, kids emulate these moods. When we are peaceful and grounded, kids model off that instead.

What parents can do: Check in with yourself before getting frustrated with your child for feeling what they're feeling. Their behavior could be modeled after your own tone and emotion.

10. They struggle to respond to inconsistent limits.

At one baseball game, you buy your kid M&Ms. At the next, you say, "No, it'll ruin your dinner," and your kid screams and whines. One night you read your kids five books, but the next you insist you only have time to read one, and they beg for more. One night you ask your child, "What do you want for dinner?" and the next night you say, "We're having lasagna, you can't have anything different," and your kids protest the incongruence.

When parents are inconsistent with limits, it naturally sets off kids' frustration and invites whining, crying, or yelling.

What parents can do: Just like adults, kids want (and need) to know what to expect. Any effort toward being 100% consistent with boundaries, limits, and routines will seriously improve children's behavior.


This story first appeared on Psychology Today and was reprinted here 7.20.21 with permission.