My girlfriend is pregnant and I have two cats. I was told that the cat litter could cause problems for the baby. Is this true, and if so, is it all cat litter?
It is not the cat litter, but the cat feces. It may contain the parasitic organism called toxoplasma gondii. Contact or close exposure to cat feces can cause a disease called toxoplasmosis.
Healthy adults who get toxoplasmosis frequently have no symptoms or only mild, flu-like symptoms. They don’t usually know they’ve been infected. The same is true for healthy pregnant women. However, pregnant women can pass toxoplasmosis to the fetus.
Infection of the unborn baby sometimes causes no problems. But it can cause miscarriage or stillbirth. Babies born with toxoplasmosis may suffer numerous problems that may be severe, including vision problems that can lead to blindness and brain damage. Toxoplasmosis is also extremely dangerous among adults and children with immune systems that have been weakened by things such as AIDS or chemotherapy.
It’s understandable that people often become very frightened about pregnancy and toxoplasmosis. But this is a subject where a little knowledge should go a long way toward easing your concerns. For one thing, if you have indoor cats that don’t eat birds or rodents, their chances of carrying the parasite are small. For another, many people have already had toxoplasmosis and having it once confers immunity most of the time.
In any event, all your girlfriend has to do to reduce her risk of infection is to steer clear of the litter box as well as any soil or sandboxes that have been contaminated with cat feces. So put yourself on cat box cleaning duty for the duration. The parasites aren’t usually infectious right away. So it may be helpful if you scoop out the stools as quickly as possible after the cats use the litter box.
Toxoplasma gondii are prevalent throughout the world and there are other ways to get it besides contact with cat feces. Pregnant women are advised to wash their hands frequently and avoid eating undercooked meat as well as raw eggs or unpasteurized dairy products. They should take care to wash all fruits and vegetables that will be eaten raw. It’s a good idea to wear gloves when gardening.