• Open Access

Prevalence of Selected Bacterial and Parasitic Agents in Feces from Diarrheic and Healthy Control Cats from Northern California


  • This study was undertaken at the University of California, Davis, Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, and all fecal testing with the exception of cultures for Clostridium perfringens and C. difficile was performed at IDEXX Reference Laboratories, West Sacramento, CA.

Corresponding author: Dr Stanley Marks, University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Medicine and Epidemiology, One Shields Ave, Davis, CA 95616; e-mail: slmarks@ucdavis.edu.



Bacterial and parasitic agents are commonly implicated as causes of diarrhea in cats, but there is a paucity of information evaluating epidemiological and prevalence factors associated with most of these organisms in cats.


Determine the prevalence of selected enteropathogens in diarrheic and nondiarrheic cats.


A total of 219 diarrheic and 54 nondiarrheic cats.


Prospective study. Fresh fecal specimens were submitted for centrifugation flotation, culture, ELISA (Giardia, Cryptosporidium, Clostridium perfringens enterotoxin [CPE], and C. difficile toxin A [TcdA]) and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing (Tritrichomonas foetus and Campylobacter spp.). An epidemiologic questionnaire was completed for each cat.


Campylobacter was isolated from significantly fewer diarrheic (21/219 or 9.6%) versus nondiarrheic cats (15/54 or 27.8%, = .001), and was detected in 74 of 131 cats (56.5%) via PCR. Campylobacter jejuni, C. helveticus, and C. upsaliensis were detected in 6.8, 100, and 44.6% of the 74 cats. Multiple Campylobacter spp. were identified in 47.3% of these cats. All cats were negative on fecal culture for Salmonella and for C. difficile TcdA via ELISA. CPE was detected in 9/219 diarrheic (4.1%) and in 1/54 nondiarrheic cats (1.9%, = .69). Cats < 2 years were significantly more likely to be infected with intestinal parasites (< .001).

Conclusions and Clinical Importance

Routine fecal cultures and toxin immunoassays for detection of bacteria are of limited diagnostic value in diarrheic cats. Molecular-based testing is superior to fecal cultures for detection and identification of Campylobacter spp., but positive test results do not correlate to the presence of disease.