Do you test soil for toxoplasmosis?


Do you test soil or vegetables for toxoplasmosis? My cat has been using a part of the garden as a litter box so I’m a bit freaked out about eating the produce from it. I’m hoping that you can test for it?


Jonathan Foster, Home Horticulture Outreach Professional

Unfortunately, toxoplasmosis is not something the UMaine Soil Analytical Lab tests for. And so far, as I’ve looked into it, most of the resources I can find are for testing in cats or human subjects who may have been exposed, not the soil itself. I suspect you would have to contact private labs to see if that is something they cover.

I can point you toward a few good links for information:

1. a previous “Ask an Expert” response on cat using the garden as a litter box

2. this reply on “Ask Extension”

3. this Univ of CA Extension page on cats in the garden

The short version is you’ll need to clean out the cat droppings and their surrounding soil, wait a couple of seasons to let any pathogens or parasites die, while keeping the cats from continuing their visits (the links above have good suggestions for this, but a nice fence is always helpful, if it’s feasible).

In the meanwhile, you don’t want to eat the produce from those spots, unfortunately. It’s entirely possible there is no toxoplasmosis, but other contaminants are also common from pet feces, so it’s best to be careful. That said, as the Univ of CA draws attention to above, there are always numerous possible hazards in the garden, and good gardening practices help mitigate them. Wear protective clothing, wash thoroughly in clean water all produce, and know that soil contaminant risk is highest with root vegetables, less so for stems and foliage, and least so for fruits, generally speaking. But even with those last two, rain splash and hot, dry conditions can put soil particles on all parts of the plant, so washing is essential.

Happy gardening.