Pregnant with Cats

Well that title is open to some interesting interpretations! No, I don’t mean pregnant with a litter of cats. I mean pregnant with a human child. You are probably wondering, “Why is my vet clinic blogging about human pregnancy?!” I was recently pregnant and I became aware of some misinformation that is commonly given to pregnant women. Get ready for this mind blowing tidbit of truth:

You can scoop your cat’s litter while pregnant.

Now you’re thinking, “But my doctor said that I shouldn’t!” I hear you. Mine told me the same thing. Here’s the scoop (pun intended) on scooping.

Cats can carry Toxoplasma gondii. This little parasite lives in the intestinal tract of cats and they are perfectly happy there. The issue is that they don’t keep their eggs nearby. Instead, the microscopic eggs are passed in the cats feces and after 24-48 hours of hanging around in the environment, they become infectious. This includes infectious to people. Now for most of us, it’s no big deal. Healthy individuals rarely show any signs of disease. In fact, many people have been infected by Toxoplasma gondii and have no idea. But for the immunocompromised and pregnant women it’s a different tale. Infection while pregnant can cause severe infection or death of the fetus.

That last sentence is terrifying for any mother to be, but did you know that a large number of people infected with Toxoplasma gondii don’t have cats? Now that isn’t something that was mentioned by my doctor and that is truly scary. The biggest source of infection isn’t from cleaning your cat’s litter box but from the environment: gardens, sand boxes, and fresh veggies, to be more precise. This makes sense as the outdoors is essentially a giant litter box for any outdoor cat.

So how can you keep your unborn babe safe from Toxoplasma gondii? The answer is very simple. Scoop your cat’s litter box every day and wash your hands afterwards. Wear gloves and wash your hands after gardening, or playing in a sandbox. Thoroughly wash your fresh vegetables as well.

What about those people who have already been infected at some point? Lucky you! Only new infections cause fetal harm. How would you know if you’ve been infected before? The only way to tell is by having your immune titers checked. If you have titers to Toxoplasma gondii, it means at some point in time your immune system has encountered it. This is a blood test that you can request from your doctor.

So, please don’t panic and start looking for a new home for your cat when you get the + on your pregnancy test.  Instead, take some basic precautions, be aware and educate yourself on the risks. Oh and congratulations!