Toxoplasmosis Threat for Pregnant Women

March 14, 2017

One of the biggest surprises of our lives happened two days before Christmas when my husband and I learned that we are expecting a baby - a human baby! We were not planning on growing our family yet and, after the shock wore off, we were thrilled about the journey into parenting that we are preparing to make.

As the already proud mama of four dogs and foster mama to three cats, pregnancy has proven to have its pet-related challenges. "Pregnancy nose" is a real thing - everything smells stronger and somehow worse. Even essential oils that normally put me at ease now make me gag. For this reason, our pets' twice-daily feeding and litter scooping responsibilities have been delegated to my loving husband while I hide in our bedroom surrounded by candles of an acceptable scent.


Regardless of how we distribute these responsibilities, the topic of toxoplasmosis has come up a lot recently among friends and family. I, of course, did my research early on and have learned that, while pregnant women have been scared into thinking that scooping cat litter can hurt them or their baby, it's highly unlikely. Unfortunately, this misinformation oftentimes causes families to surrender cats that likely don't pose any threat whatsoever. For this reason, I thought I'd share these important points about toxoplasmosis.


1. Cats get toxo from eating raw meat. Humans can as well. Therefore, if you eat undercooked meat you too can get toxo, even if you don't have a cat! Raw shellfish and unpasteurized milk can spread toxo as well.


2. You are more likely to get toxoplasmosis from potting soil than from your cats' litter box because, if you're scooping twice daily like we do, the parasite will not even have a chance to become infectious, which takes 1-5 days per the CDC.


3. You can get toxo from fruits and veggies that have contaminated soil on them so, again, no cats needed to get toxo here. Properly wash your produce.


4. Unless your indoor cat is switched to a raw food diet, gorges on a random infected mouse/bird in your house, or gets out of your house and eats raw meat, your cat will not randomly get toxo. For this reason, it's advised that pregnant women not bring NEW cats into the home but it's perfectly okay to care for your existing INDOOR cats as usual, assuming you practice good hygiene and don't lose your cat.


5. You would have to get cat poop in your mouth/food in order to get toxo so just wash your hands and keep things sanitary but, keep in mind, a cat can only shed toxo for 3 weeks from when he or she contracts it so, if your cat has been indoors for months/years with no fresh kills, there is no shedding of toxo parasites to speak of. You can always wear gloves if you want to take extra precautions, of course.


All of this info is on the CDC website. I've also spoken to various veterinarians and medical doctors on the topic.


That said, mamas, nobody is going to judge you if you choose to have others scoop your cats' litter for you because you have a serious case of pregnancy nose!

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