It’s a dilemma for every cat owner…what do you do when you get pregnant? Most doctors advise you not to change the cat litter, and for a very good reason. The biggest risk with cats is not the cat litter itself but getting infected with toxoplasmosis, which affects the pregnant woman and can be transmitted to the fetus.
Toxoplasmosis is a parasite that can cause serious infections in humans and deformities in the developing fetus.
Feeding or petting your cat and allowing her/him to sit on your lap is perfectly safe while pregnant.
Infection can follow handling of cat litter because it can be found in the stool of cats, so pregnant women are advised not to handle cat litter.
Cats become infected with Toxoplasma by eating infected rodents, birds, or other small animals. Once cats become infected, they can pass millions of parasites in their feces for as long as 3 weeks after infection.
Cats and kittens prefer litter boxes, garden soils, and sandboxes for elimination.
You may be exposed unintentionally by:
- touching your mouth after changing a litter box, or
- inhaling dry feces from the litter box
- while gardening without gloves
- eating infected fruits and vegetables if they are not cooked, washed, or peeled.
Here are some helpful tips to reduce your risk of environmental exposure to Toxoplasma.
- Avoid changing cat litter if possible. If no one else can perform the task, wear disposable gloves and wash your hands with soap and water afterward.
- Ensure that the cat litter box is changed daily. The Toxoplasma parasite does not become infectious until 1 to 5 days after it is shed in a cat’s feces.
- Feed your cat commercial dry or canned food, not raw or undercooked meats.
- Keep cats indoors.
- Avoid stray cats, especially kittens. Do not get a new cat while you are pregnant.
- Keep outdoor sandboxes covered.
- Wear gloves when gardening and during contact with soil or sand because it might be contaminated with cat feces that contain Toxoplasma. Wash hands with soap and water after gardening or contact with soil or sand.
Rest assured, no other activities are prohibited — feeding or petting your cat and allowing her/him to sit on your lap is perfectly safe while pregnant. The risk of getting toxoplasmosis from your cat can be lowered even further if your cat has tested negative for this parasite or is an indoor cat that eats only store-bought canned or dry food.