Prevalence and risk factors associated with cat parasites in Italy: a multicenter study

Parasit Vectors. 2021 Sep 15;14(1):475. doi: 10.1186/s13071-021-04981-2.


Background: Parasites that infect cats include protozoa, helminths and arthropods, many of which are transmissible to humans. Effective control relies on a good knowledge of parasite distribution and the risk factors for infection. The present study was aimed at evaluating the prevalence of major feline parasites in Italy and the risk factors associated with their occurrence.

Methods: Over a 12-month study period, feces, hair and ectoparasites from naturally infected cats from feral colonies, shelters and private households were analyzed at 13 study centers across Italy. Samples from these cats (n = 987) were analyzed at all centers using the same diagnostic methods. Prevalence values and risk factors were evaluated statistically for the identification of predictors of risk.

Results: The overall prevalence of gastro-intestinal and broncho-pulmonary (BP) nematodes was 35.9% (354/987). Toxocara cati was the most prevalent species (253/987; 25.6%), followed by Ancylostomatidae (98/987; 9.9%). Among BP nematodes, Aelurostrongylus abstrusus was the most common (76/987; 7.7%). Approximately 35.7% (352/987) of the study population was infested by ectoparasites, of which the most common were fleas (29.4%, 290/987), followed by ear mites Otodectes cynotis (9.8%, 97/987). Predictors of risk for parasite infection included age, a predominantly or exclusively outdoor lifestyle, geographic area and lack of antiparasitic treatment.

Conclusions: Both ecto- and endoparasites are still common in cats throughout Italy, many of them being of zoonotic concern and vectors of pathogens to humans. Given the presence of parasites throughout the entire study period, year-round treatment should be considered. Furthermore, data confirm the need to protect the human-animal bond using proper endo- and ectoparasiticides to reduce the risk of human infection, in application of the One-Health concept.

Keywords: Cat; Italy; Parasites; Prevalence; Risk factors; Zoonosis.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cat Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cat Diseases / parasitology*
  • Cat Diseases / transmission
  • Cats / parasitology*
  • Coinfection
  • Feces / parasitology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Parasites / classification
  • Parasites / genetics
  • Parasites / isolation & purification*
  • Parasitic Diseases, Animal / epidemiology*
  • Parasitic Diseases, Animal / transmission
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors