Having Cats While Pregnant: Cat Litter Precautions For Pregnant Women
People love to have pets because they are like a part of their family. However, a common confusion most women have is whether having cats while pregnant is ok or not.
Pregnancy brings few challenges for you if you own a cat. But don’t worry. All you’ll have to do is just a little planning instead of getting rid of your cat. Furthermore, babies and cats can co-exist peacefully as long as you want them to, so you can keep your furry friend also after pregnancy.
First things come first. There are some common myths about cats and pregnancy and questions which need to be answered.
Myths About Cats And Pregnancy
Let’s start with the most common myth: A pregnant woman should get rid of her cat.
This myth actually shows a complete lack of understanding of the disease called Toxoplasmosis, which we discuss later in this article. In short, Toxoplasmosis is caused by a parasite that can be dangerous to a developing fetus in a human being. Although cats could potentially transmit Toxoplasmosis to a human, it is very rare, and the most common way that a human is infected with Toxoplasmosis is through the consumption of rare or raw meat.
Another myth: Cats can suck the air out of your baby.
While the claim that a cat will purposefully suffocate your baby is false, there was an incident in the United Kindom in 2000 where a six-week-old baby died after the cat fell asleep on his face.
So yes, a cat may cause suffocation to your baby. But, none of the reports ever obtained about the occurrence of such an event. And you can block your cat access to your baby and yourself easily.
Is It Safe to Have a Cat While Pregnant?
Now that you know that it’s not true that you will have to remain away from your cat during pregnancy, you should know that there are a few safety rules that you need to follow when having cats while pregnant. But before we get to them, let’s try to understand better what is Toxoplasmosis and what are the risks of having cats while pregnant. Understanding it better can make you feel safer.
Risks Associated With Having cats While Pregnant
One of the most significant risks of having the cat around you while you are pregnant is Toxoplasmosis. The condition is remote, but the danger is quite real.
Humans usually get Toxoplasmosis while eating uncooked food or by gardening. Although it’s considered rare, there are few chances that you get it when you are around your cat.
An adult who gets infected with this disease rarely becomes ill. If you had been affected previously, you may be immune but can’t pass it to the baby.
Can Cats Cause Miscarriage?
Toxoplasmosis doesn’t make you feel ill seriously. But, if you get the germs during the early stages of pregnancy, it can lead to miscarriage or cause malformed babies. If a pregnant woman transmits Toxoplasmosis, a rare parasitic disease, to her unborn baby during the first trimester, then the Toxoplasmosis infection can lead to miscarriage.
What is Toxoplasmosis?
Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic infection caused by a single-celled parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. When acquired during pregnancy, it can produce a severe congenital infection with ocular and neurologic damage to the infant.
While the parasite is found throughout the world, more than 40 million people in the United States may be infected with the Toxoplasmosis parasite.
According to Glowm up to 38% of women in the United States have immunity against Toxoplasma gondii from a prior infection. While the risk of getting immune is high among those women, who used to own cats for a long time. The blood test tells whether you have immunity for toxoplasmosis or not.
Can Cats Cause Infertility in Humans?
According to MotherToBaby, An increased chance of fertility problems has been reported in people who have had a previous Toxoplasmosis infection.
Is having Toxoplasmosis in the past, can increase the chances of having birth defects in babies?
Infection in infants can occur only when a pregnant woman has an active Toxoplasmosis infection. If you had Toxoplasmosis in the past, you are likely immune, and there is no increased chance to the baby when this disease occurs more than 6 months before conception.
How Can Pregnant Women Be Infected By Toxoplasmosis?
In order for Toxoslasmosis to infect a pregnant woman and do damage to her developing fetus from a cat, the following events would have to happen:
- The pregnant woman would have to be in her first trimester.
- The cat would have to be fed raw infected meat during this time.
- The cat would then shed Toxoplasmosis for approximately 2 weeks of its entire life (A cat only excretes oocysts when it is first exposed to Toxoplasma gondii, and this goes on for only two weeks).
- The woman would have to ingest the infected cat’s feces – this can happen only when cleaning the cat litter box, not washing hands, and touching your mouth or food.
So as you can see, a number of things need to happen for the pregnant woman to catch the disease from the cat.
The Likelihood of Contracting Toxoplasmosis
It’s difficult for cats to transmit Toxoplasmosis directly to their caregivers, therefore, a pregnant woman is generally unlikely to contract the disease from her cat. Here are the factors that keep the chances low:
- Only cats who ingest tissue cysts get infected. This would be limited to outdoor cats who hunt and eat rodents (or cats who are fed raw meat by their owners).
- Since oocysts are transmitted by ingestion, in order to contract Toxoplasmosis, a pregnant woman would have to touch the contaminated feces in the litter box, and then without washing her hands touch her mouth or otherwise transmit it to her digestive system.
How to avoid Toxoplasmosis?
In general, to avoid Toxoplasmosis infection, pregnant women should:
- Avoid eating uncooked meat.
- Avoid eating unwashed fruits and vegetables.
- Wash cutting boards, dishes, counters, and utensils with hot soapy water after any contact with raw meat or seafood, or unwashed fruits and vegetables.
- Wash hands after touching raw meat or seafood, and unwashed fruits and vegetables.
- Do not feed your cats raw meat or seafood.
- Do not touch cats’ feces directly.
- Always wear gloves while doing gardening. Wash your hands properly after touching the sand or soil.
How to Avoid Toxoplasmosis for Cat Owners Who Are Pregnant?
Tips to have a cat while you are pregnant
Even in the case when you don’t have immunity, you can lower the risk. Follow the tips given here to reduce the chances of getting infected:
- If you own a cat, always ask someone else to handle its litter during your pregnancy, especially during the first trimester. It will be better to perform disinfection of the dish using the boiled water for at least 5 minutes. After sterilizing the tray, put it back. If none of the people is available, use gloves made of rubber for changing the litter. Make sure that you wash the hands properly using the disinfecting soap and water.
- Don’t let the cat’s litter remain in your home for a long time. Try to change the litter on a daily basis, if possible. This will diminish the risk of getting infected.
- Keep the cat indoors.
- Never handle or welcome stray cats. Don’t bring in the new cats to your home which has remained outdoors for a long time.
- Feed the cats in pregnancy with dry food or canned food only. Don’t give them undercooked meat.
- It is advisable to take your cat for a blood test to check whether it is infected or not. If it turns out to be affected, you are in danger.
Make sure that you properly follow these tips to assure that the health of your baby will not be affected. In case you notice any side effects, it is better to consult your doctor.
Self-Cleaning Litter Box
Thankfully, in this age of technology, there are now litter boxes that offer high-tech solutions to handling this unpleasant chore, especially when having cats while pregnant. Automatic self-cleaning litter boxes detect when your cat has used them and do the cleaning for you.
Sensible precautions will protect you from Toxoplasmosis during your pregnancy, and getting rid of your cat is not necessary. If you’re concerned about your well-being, it’s far better for you to enjoy your cat’s love during this exciting period.