Not only is the stereotype both inaccurate and offensive; it also diminishes the seriousness of the disease theorized to explain it.
"It's a very significant source of damage to people in a way that matters," says Dr. McLeod of toxoplasmosis. "There's a lot of hype about things it might do, but we know the things that it can do. [An infected] baby can end up without sight, without cognition, all the things that Zika can do, this virus can do, and it's here with us right now."
And despite the fact that the parasite is specific to cat feces, the indoor house cat is, more than likely, not at fault, says the Cornell Feline Health Center at Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine. Feral cats and outdoor cats are the more probable culprits; even still, you can get toxoplasmosis whether you interact with cats regularly or not.
"It's a very common parasite, it's in the environment," says Dr. McLeod. "You just have to live in the world to get it."
"Cats can make nice pets," adds Dr. Torrey. "But there are some aspects to what has come out so far that makes some of us uneasy, and would suggest that, especially for children, you may want to take certain precautions" -- such as covering sandboxes when not in use. Otherwise, he says, cat companionship is not cause for alarm or panic.