Pregnancy and Cats--A Myth Exposed
Several times a month at Red Door Animal Shelter we get calls from women thinking that they must give up their cats because they are expecting a baby. We are surprised that this old wives' tale is still being passed around! It has long been known that cats and pregnant women can live safely and happily together.
Toxoplasmosis infection is largely responsible for perpetuating the myth that pregnant women and cats cannot coexist. Toxoplasmosis is a parasite that cats can sometimes contract if they eat undercooked meat or hunt for prey outside. Felines who live strictly indoors and eat dry and canned cat foods are at minimal risk for infection.
And, toxoplasmosis doesn't just come from cats. Individuals can also contract the parasite from working outside or by eating undercooked or unwashed foods. You are more likely to get toxoplasmosis from eating undercooked meat or unwashed produce than you are from your cat!
Toxoplasmosis is indeed dangerous to pregnant women and persons with compromised immune systems, but simple precautions will protect against getting the infection.
In the rare instance that a cat is infected, he can pass the infection through his feces for a few weeks after the infection is contracted. Therefore, if you are pregnant, it would be ideal to enlist another family member to clean your cat's litter box for the duration of your pregnancy. Even if this is not possible, there is no need to worry--simply wear disposable gloves, clean the box daily, and wash your hands afterward. Continue to practice safety by washing all produce you eat and washing your hands after gardening or working outside. If you're a meat-eater, be sure to cook all meats thoroughly, as well as everything that comes into contact with meat, such as knives or cutting boards.
The Centers for Disease Control, the nation's leading authority on infectious diseases, agrees that pregnant women do not have to give up their cats. Learn more about toxoplasmosis at the CDC website.