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I’m Pregnant, Do I Need to Get Rid of My Cat?

Published on October 10, 2014

Featured Item

Toxoplasmosis and Pregnancy Risks

Being a veterinarian and currently pregnant with our second child, this topic came up quite frequently in discussions with my medical professionals.  Their concern was raised due to my profession and dealing with cats on a daily basis, especially since toxoplasmosis can have a profound effect on the unborn child.

First and foremost, what is Toxoplasmosis?  Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by a single-celled parasite called Toxoplasma gondii (T. Gondii).  It is one of the most common parasitic diseases and has been found in nearly ALL warm-blooded animals, including our precious pets and us.  Cats, both wild and domestic, are the only definitive hosts which means that the parasite can only produce eggs when infecting a cat.  When a cat eats any infected raw meat, T. gondii is released into the cat’s digestive tract where later it can be excreted in high numbers in the feces.  This then raises the question of whether we can “catch” toxoplasmosis from our cats.  Because cats only shed T. gondii for a few days in their entire life, the chance of us being exposed is very limited.  Owning a cat does NOT mean you will be infected with the disease.  Cats particularly kept indoors that do not hunt or are not fed raw meat are at a very low risk.

So do you have to give up your cat if you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!  Here are some tips to reduce your risk of exposure:

  • Avoid changing litter if possible (spouses love this one!), but if you do change the litter, wear disposable gloves and wash your hands with soap and warm water afterwards
  • Change the litter box daily! Toxo does not become infectious for 1-5 days after it is shed in a cat’s feces (Remember, cats only shed for a few days in their life)
  • Do not feed raw or undercooked meat to your pet (or yourself for that matter, i.e. Sushi)
  • Keep cats indoors if possible
  • Keep outdoor sandboxes covered
  • Wear gloves when gardening and during contact with soil or sand in case it is contaminated from other animals

As a veterinarian who enjoys working with cats on an every day basis, my pregnancy screening results demonstrated that I was not Toxoplasmosis positive for an active infection AND I have never been exposed.

Any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at sbroadhurst@pendervet.com

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