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Toxoplasmosis & Litter Boxes

Caring for Your Cat While You Are Pregnant

As you probably well know, there are quite a few things women should avoid while pregnant. However, you may not know that cleaning your cat’s litter box is one of them. In some cases, pregnant women need to avoid their cats entirely because of toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection that primarily affects cats. Toxoplasmosis can have serious and harmful effects on a fetus, yet there are simple ways to protect yourself while living with cats. So before you banish your cat to the basement or give him or her away, read on to learn some facts about toxoplasmosis and how to care for your feline friends.

What Is Toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic infection that primarily affects cats. The infection is caused by the protozoan T. Gondii. In humans, it generally causes mild flu-like symptoms, if any symptoms at all. However, in pregnant women, it can cause more serious problems and the infection could be passed on to the fetus. This is why it’s important for pregnant women to take the necessary precautions.

The Scoop on Cat Poop

The main culprit for the toxoplasmosis infection is the protozoan T. Gondii. When cats eat undercooked or raw meat or drink contaminated water, they can become infected with the protozoan. The parasites form after being ingested by the cat and are later excreted in the feces and are infectious for up to 24 hours. In soil, litter, and sand, they can remain infectious for up to 18 months. When cleaning litter boxes or even gardening outside, it’s important to always wear gloves and to thoroughly wash your hands and wrists when finished.

Toxoplasmosis & Fetuses

The good news is that toxoplasmosis is rare in the United States, yet it is still a risk. If a pregnant woman contracts this infection and passes it onto the fetus, the health effects for the fetus can be serious and include:

  • Epilepsy
  • Blindness
  • Mental retardation

Toxoplasmosis can also lead to a miscarriage of the pregnancy.

Common Questions About Toxoplasmosis

Should I get rid of my cat if I’m pregnant?

No, this is not necessary as long as you are careful. Take extra precautions like avoiding cleaning out the litter box and avoid any contact with your cat’s feces.

How can I limit mine and my cat’s exposure to toxoplasmosis?
  • Avoid changing the litter box, but if you have no choice, be sure to wear gloves, wear a mask, and thoroughly wash your hands after. It’s also recommended that you change the litter box daily.
  • Keep your cat indoors to reduce the risk of coming in contact with T. Gondii.
  • Do not bring home a stray cat, as they will be more likely to be infected with a parasite.
  • Although the risk of contracting toxoplasmosis when petting or handling your pet is low, it’s important to wash your hands afterward.
  • Feed your cat the right food and avoid raw or undercooked meat.
What are other precautions I can take?

When pregnant, you should do the following:

  • Thoroughly wash all food and cook meat thoroughly.
  • Wear gloves when gardening outside and wash them when finished.
  • Wash and disinfect any surfaces that come in contact with raw meat.
  • Contact your veterinarian or doctor for more information about toxoplasmosis.

If you have questions about toxoplasmosis, please reach out to your primary care physician.

To learn more on this topic, visit the following sites:

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