Tetratrichomonas felistomae (Hegner and Ratcliffe, 1927) Honigberg, 1978

ETYMOLOGY: Tetra (four) + tricho (hair) + monas (body) and felis (cat) + stomae (mouth).

SYNONYMS:Trichomonas felistomae Hegner and Ratcliffe, 1927.

HISTORY:Tetratrichomonas felistomae was first described as a trichomonasd from the mouths of cats by Hegner and Ratcliffe (1927a). Later that same year, they also described the species from the mouths of dogs, Trichomonascanistomae (Hegner and Ratcliffe, 1927b); thus, if the species in the dog and the cat are the same, the name for that from the cat has priority. The genus Tetratrichomonas was established by Honigberg in 1978 for those species of Trichomonas that have 4 anterior flagella and a trailing free flagellum. Recent work by Gothe et al. (1992) has revealed that trichomonads recovered from the mouths of cats in Germany do not have a free flagellum, and it may be that this is either a different species or that the original description was in error.

GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION: There is very little information on the presence of this parasite in the mouths of cats. It has been reported from the mouths of 2 of 28 cats in the United States (Hegner and Ratcliffe, 1927a) and from 21 of 110 cats from Germany and Italy (Gothe et al., 1992).

LOCATION IN HOST: In the mouth, typically along the gum line.

PARASITE IDENTIFICATION: These trophozoites have a length of about 6 to 11 m and a width of about 3 to 4 m. There is a marked axostyle that runs the length of the body from the base of the flagellum that appears to protrude from the posterior end. Along one side of the body is an undulating membrane that has about three undulations along its length. The original description contains a long free flagellum that is about equal in length to the portion making up the undulating membrane. Also descrIbed is a rather dense costa that runs along the cell under the site of attachment of the undulating membrane. The organism described by Gothe et al., had no free flagellum at the end of the undulating membrane. The lack of the free-flagellum led these authors to postulate that this was actually a member of the genus Trichomonas.

LIFE CYCLE: Trichomonads display a jerky, rapid, and erractic swimming behavior caused by the movement of the flagela. There is no cyst stage in the life cycle, and this parasite is transmitted from cat to cat by direct contact.

CLINICAL PRESENTATION AND PATHOGENESIS: Gothe et al (1992) found trichomonads only in the mouths of cats that were FIV, FeLV, or FIP positive. Typically, the organisms were found only in cats that had gingivitis and that had one of these viral infections. Cats that had stomatitis due to other causes and cats that were clinically normal were not found to harbor these parasites.

TREATMENT: Treatment has not been tried, but it is expected that improved oral hygiene will reduce the possibility that trichomonads are present within the mouth of cats.

EPIZOOTIOLOGY: This parasite is transmitted from cat to cat by oral contact. It appears to be more prevalent in cats that have underlying viral infections that predispose to stomatitis.

HAZARD TO OTHER ANIMALS: It is not well understood whether this parasite is transmissible to other animals.

HAZARD TO HUMANS: It is not well understood whether this parasite is transmissible to human beings.


Gothe R, Beelitz P, Schöl H, Beer B. 1992. Trichomonaden-Infektionen der Mundhöhle bei Katzen in Süddeutschland. Tierärztl Prax 20:195-198.

Hegner R, Ratcliffe H. 1927a. Trichomonads from the vagina of the monkey, from the mouth of the cat and man, and from the intestine of the monkey, opossum and prairie-dog. J Parasitol 14:27-35.

Hegner R, Ratcliffe H. 1927b. Trichomonads from the mouth of the dog. J Parasitol 14:51-53.

Honigberg BM. Trichomonads of beterinary importance. In: PArasitic Protozoa. Vol II. Kreier JP, ed. Academic Press, New York, USA, pages 163-273.