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Pregnant Woman With Cats

IS IT BAD FOR A PREGNANT WOMAN TO BE AROUND THE CAT? 

Here’s another common question regarding cats and parasites. While toxoplasmosis can cause birth defects in unborn children if a pregnant woman acquires and infection during her pregnancy, what are the potential risks of catching toxoplasmosis when living with cats in the house? Notably, cats are the only species affected by the intestinal form of toxoplasmosis where they shed infectious oocysts (eggs) in their feces. For your average indoor adult house cat, the risks are minimal, as cats will only shed this parasite in their feces for a few weeks after initial infection which often results from hunting behaviors and exposure to contaminated soil outside. Therefore, outdoor cats and kittens are much more likely to pose a threat to us. An infected cat’s feces needs to sit in the environment for at least 24 hours to become infectious, so daily cleaning of the litterbox can greatly reduce the risk as well. Also remember that outdoor cats may use sandboxes or gardens for defecating, so cover sandboxes when not in use, wear gloves when gardening, and, most importantly, wash your hands. Another important risk factor for toxoplasmosis is consumption of undercooked meats, as this parasite can actually live in the muscle of infected animals. So cook your meat to the recommended internal temperatures and use proper hygiene when handling meat products. People and most animal species are susceptible to toxoplasmosis but rarely does it result in clinical signs. Toxoplasmosis can sometimes cause flu-like symptoms, systemic infections, and birth defects in unborn children. Through proper management of cat litter boxes, outdoor factors, and proper meat handling, you can greatly reduce your risk of exposure to this disease!

Submitted by: Dr. Stephanie Edwards

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