The sand cat (Felis margarita) is a small-sized felid occurring in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The sand cat captive-breeding program at the Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife in Sharjah, UAE, has until recently been severely compromised by very high newborn mortality rates. Two different pairs of sand cats gave birth, respectively, to one and two litters (with a total of eight kittens) between 1999 and 2006. Seven out of eight kittens died between the third and 21st wk of life. Toxoplasmosis was confirmed as the cause of death in these two litters. Adult cats had high antibody titers to Toxoplasma gondii before pregnancy, suggesting that maternal immunity did not protect the kittens against infection with T. gondii and that maternal immunity might not have prevented transplacental transmission of the parasite. This observation contrasts with what is seen in domestic cats. To date, this is the first report on confirmed fatal toxoplasmosis and prevalence of T. gondii in sand cats.
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