Caring for a pet is a common occurrence in the lives of many women. The same is true for women who are also pregnant. Unfortunately, among the list of precautions for pregnant moms is a warning to take special care when handling pets, specifically cats.
Cat feces poses a threat to both pregnant women and their unborn children. The feces may contain parasites that cause Toxoplasmosis, an infection characterized by flu-like symptoms and is also associated with miscarriages in women and congenital defects and damage to the eyes and brain in babies. Alarmingly, symptoms such as sore throat, tiredness, fever and sore muscles may not be correlated with cat litter exposure or such symptoms may not occur in women; however the effects of Toxoplasmosis in babies are often more dramatic and more common.
When caring for a cat, pregnant women should avoid changing the litter box, if possible. If a pregnant woman must change the litter box, she should take precautions to wear gloves and a mask, wash her hands thoroughly with soap and water afterwards, avoid touching her mouth, nose or eyes, and change the litter box daily to reduce exposure. The litter box can be cleaned with boiling water or an automatic self-cleaning litter box can be used.
Additional precautions for caring for a pet cat include keeping the cat indoors away from mice that might harbor the parasite that causes Toxoplasmosis and refrain from feeding the cat undercooked or raw meat that might also contain the parasite. During pregnancy, women should also avoid rescuing stray cats.
Pregnant women can reduce their overall exposure to Toxoplasmosis by avoiding raw eggs, meat or poultry; drinking only pasteurized milk, and limiting gardening as soil may also contain parasites from cats. Food hygiene should be strictly adhered to such that fruit and vegetables should be washed along with sanitizing kitchen surfaces on which raw meat has been handled.
With regular hand washing practices, Toxoplasmosis infections from cat litter can be dramatically reduced and pet cats can remain staple members of a growing family.