An Ontario friend arranged for three kittens for me and my daughters about 12 years ago from their local shelter.
People would randomly abandon cats on his dairy farm, believing cartoons about cats and milk.
He wasn’t going to lose his livelihood to some unwanted cat.
Farmers in New Zealand are doing the same thing.
A monitoring programme testing ewes on six farms, as part of the Cape to City predator programme, has found that up to 30 per cent of sheep carry the disease, which causes a high abortion rate in pregnant ewes.
Three “experimental” farms within the 26,000-hectare Cape to City footprint tested feral cats and mice for toxoplasmosis while three control farms outside of the footprint tested mice only.
Sixty sheep on each farm have also been sample tested to form a baseline across the farms that have been matched in size, stocking density and habitat.
Hawke’s Bay Regional Council Biosecurity adviser Rod Dickson said the baseline was high but “that was expected” and by reducing feral cats, it is hoped abortion rates will decrease.
“This could provide a significant economic benefit for farmers,” he said.
Mr Dickson said toxoplasma is highly prevalent in New Zealand sheep flocks with a recent survey testing 198 ewe flocks revealed 85 per cent of sheep had been exposed to the disease.
Sheep become infected from eating contaminated food such as pasture, concentrate feeds and hay.
Once ingested, the disease spreads to the sheep’s muscles and brain ” and also to the placenta. Shielded from the ewe’s defence system the parasite multiplies rapidly, killing cells as infection spreads.
And my cats? Lucky wasn’t so lucky and didn’t make it out of Guelph. The two black ones had a long life roaming the forest in our Kansas backyard and, brought us gifts every morning.