Who doesn’t love cleaning out a cat box? Well, everybody. This is probably why my neighbor was so gleeful when her doctor told her at her first prenatal appointment she was no longer allowed to clean out the cat box. Since she was the quintessential cat lady before getting married two years before, not being allowed to clean the litter for seven cats didn’t seem like too much of a loss. I was curious, however, as to why this was such a strong command from her doctor.

She told me there about a particular infection she and the baby could get by coming into contact with cat feces that could prove extremely dangerous for them both. She was supposed to avoid the litter box until the baby stopped breastfeeding—meaning a good two years or so before she would have to add that back to her list of chores. Was this really a concern, or was she milking it a little to avoid the pooper scooper?

Toxoplasmosis is one of those things that every pregnant woman seems to know about, but may be confused as to what it is and how it is really contracted. The assumption for many is that breathing in the dust of a litter box or directly touching something that has come into contact with cat feces is the only way that this infection can be passed to a pregnant woman and then through to her fetus. The reality is this only one way it can be contracted.

Toxoplasmosis can be a very dangerous infection for a baby, though most women who contract it will not show any symptoms. There are several ways a baby can be protected from this infection. Though the first thing most women think of when they think of toxoplasmosis is cats, the reality is most cats do not pose a danger. Only those cats who are allowed outside or who are fed undercooked meat are carriers of the strain. Exclusively indoor cats are not a danger, though concerned mothers can wear gloves when cleaning the litter box. More dangerous is the consumption of undercooked or raw meats and contact with soil.

Source: Kravetz, Jeffrey. Toxoplasmosis in Pregnancy, The American Journal of Medicine, volume 118, Issue 3, pp 212-216, March 2005.

Keyword Tags: