Do Pregnancy and Cats Mix?

You are absolutely ecstatic! You have just found out that you are pregnant and what better cause for celebration and jubilation. You want to shout it from the roof tops and share it with everyone you know, including your beloved pet. However, you have been told by someone who was told by someone that cats can carry a disease that can harm your baby. Is it true? Do you have to give up your precious cat?

Well, you will be relieved to know that the answer to this question is NO. Just having a cat during your pregnancy is harmless. However, you will have to make one major change, because there is a risk of disease. This change, unless you are already very fortunate not to have this job as part of your chores, is that you must stop cleaning the litter box.

“Woohoo”, you shout. No more litter box scooping. Yes, this is a nice side bonus of being pregnant. If you are on your own for any reason and need to clean the litter box, then wear rubber gloves and wash your hands thoroughly after you are finished. So why all the fuss? The name of the disease that can be transmitted is called toxoplasmosis.

Toxoplasmosis is generally transmitted to outdoor cats from a parasite that they pick up from prey that they eat or from contaminated soil. Indoor cats rarely have a chance of infection. If you work outdoors in your garden, then you should also wear gloves. Humans can also contract the disease from coming into contact with or eating raw or undercooked meat.

This means that if you eat meat, then you also need to take precautions. Of course, safe handling of meat is always a concern, but when pregnant you need to be even more diligent. Ensuring you do not cut meat and other food on the same cutting board and that you clean up thoroughly after handling and cutting raw meat is essential.

Of course, you might already carry immunity to toxoplasmosis. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that more than 60 million people in the US carry the parasite that causes the disease, but few show the symptoms of it because the human immune system generally keeps the parasite under control.

The symptoms of toxoplasmosis are often not present, but when they are present they are usually flu-like symptoms that last for a few weeks. Once gone, the parasite lies dormant and will remain that way unless the immune system becomes compromised. However, in the unborn child there can be severe consequences if infection occurs. The child’s neurological and ocular development can be compromised. Miscarriage is also possible.

Of course, if the pregnant woman already has immunity to toxoplasmosis, then the baby will also have that immunity. It is only when the mother contracts the disease for the first time while pregnant that the unborn child is in danger. If you take the precautions mentioned above and avoid cleaning the litter box or handling raw meat, you should be able to safely go through your pregnancy without concern. You can enjoy the feeling of being pregnant and you can still enjoy your first baby – your cat. After all, we do love our pets and you will want your child to grow up with the joys of having a cat in the house. Rest assured that you can do so safely.

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