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A Cat-Borne Threat to Monk Seals

March 16, 2023

Hawaiian monk seals and toxoplasmosis—infographic and frequently asked questions.

Toxoplasmosis is one of the biggest threats to Hawaiian monk seals in the main Hawaiian Islands. The disease has killed at least a dozen monk seals in the last two decades—it is almost always lethal for them. The majority of these deaths were among adult females, which are especially important to the recovery of the species.

  Infographic of a cat-borne threat to Hawaiian monk seals on how Toxoplasma gondii makes its way from the mountains to ocean.

How can you help?

You can help prevent toxoplasmosis from affecting monk seals and other wild animals by doing your part to reduce the spread of T. gondii eggs.

  • Keeping cats exclusively indoors improves their longevity, protects native birds from cat predation, and is the best way to prevent the spread of toxoplasmosis.
  • Make sure to spay and neuter your cats—while this won’t prevent them from contracting or spreading T. gondii parasites, it will curb unwanted litters of kittens.
  • It is illegal in Hawai‘i to abandon unwanted cats or kittens outdoors or at feral cat colonies; take them to a shelter where they may be adopted.
  • Please do not feed feral cats, as this may perpetuate colony growth and further abandonment, ultimately increasing the amount of T. gondii eggs spread into the environment.

Last updated by Pacific Islands Regional Office on 03/16/2023