Categories: parasites

Can Pregnant Women Be around Cats?

Still from the video below, which starts at the bit about pregnant women and cats

I think this point needs to be made again. In fact, it needs to be made over and over again because, despite my best efforts and the efforts of others, women still have a misconception about being around cats when pregnant.

The reason why pregnant women are particularly concerned about being around cats is because a toxoplasmosis infection in a pregnant woman can result in abortion, stillbirth and birth of babies with a central nervous system infection. Also, cats are the only animals to pass on the infectious stage of this parasite through their faeces. The serious consequences of an infection has led to an incorrect assumption that pregnant women should not be around domestic cats.

However, the best experts in the world, the people I personally trust, say that if you are pregnant it is not necessary to get rid of your cat. Firstly, most human cases of the infection come from eating raw or undercooked meat particularly pork and lamb. Also unpasteurised dairy products can be a source of this infection. Fresh vegetables need to be washed carefully because oocysts can cling to bits of soil and the soil can be on vegetables.

Now for the important bit. It is important for people to understand the mode of transmission from cats to humans because it informs us as to how minimal the risk is.

I will quote the words of a very experienced veterinarian just to make sure that I have this completely correct.

“Even a cat with an active toxoplasmosis infection is only capable of passing it on for seven to ten days of her entire life, when there is an acute infection. It takes anywhere from one to three days for oocysts shed in the faeces to become infectious – which means the litter box would have to sit unscooped from one to three days before the infection could be passed on. Then, to become infected from cat faeces, a person would have to touch the faeces and then touch an opening in their body.”

Women can take precautions to avoid contact with cat poop by wearing gloves when gardening and cleaning the litter box. Or ask someone else to do these things while you’re pregnant.

To prevent the parasite a cat should not be fed raw meat or allowed to hunt. Indoor cats who only eat cat food are unlikely to ever be infected. As for treatments, antibiotics such as clindamycin are available to treat an active infection and to prevent the intestine phase of oocysts shedding.

About half the human adult population shows serological evidence of having been exposed in the past. “Serological” means in the blood serum, which is the clear liquid that separates from the blood when it is allowed to clot.

In conclusion, pregnant women do not need to get rid of their cats. They can be around cats. They just have to take some sensible precautions and this page I think explains the situation clearly. One problem is that cat haters frequently like to use toxoplasmosis to denigrate the cat and to turn people away from keeping domestic cats. There have been many scare stories and articles on the Internet about how toxoplasmosis infects the human brain and makes people mad etc.. These are nearly always written by cat haters and/or ornithologists in my view. By all means read them but do so with caution and take their findings with a pinch of salt.

P.S. The experts I refer to are the authors (veterinarians) of the respected “Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook”. Buy it.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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  • Pregnant women should take extra care when cleaning litterbixes, but that doesn't mean they should get rid of the cat. My mother had cats continuously from when she was a child until her death. She clean the litterboxes and all three of her children were healthy, with no miscarriages. I experienced the same. Keep the kitty and the kid. They can grow together.

    • I have looked at all of these (briefly) and not one as far as I can tell supports your statement regarding deaths of children and airborne oocysts. Please clarify but don't provide more links. You'll have to be more precise and targeted.

      • As I can do my own research, Sir, I don't think it's too much to expect you to read the findings I've provided--more than "briefly"--since YOU were the one who asked for sources. At least one--IIRC two--of the studies included mentioned that T. gondii oocysts aerosolize. One of them mentions that said oocysts now occur in our environment at densities of three-434 per square ft., and persist and remain infectious in the environment from 1.5 (land) to 4.5 years (water). I haven't yet posted the links to studies that have demonstrated T. gondii oocysts have EXTENSIVELY contaminated our nearshore marine environment and the filter-feeding organisms that live therein--both sessile, including oysters and mussels, and mobile water-column feeders, including sardines, mackerel and anchovies. Once you've demonstrated your willingness to discuss the information I've provided reasonably, dispassionately and honestly, I'll post additional studies.

        • Which study refers to aeosolized oocycts? And where in the study is it referred to? And what about the "between 4,000 and 5,000 stillborn, blind, deaf, epileptic, encephalitic, ...."? Where is that study? If you like you can cut and paste the words in the comment as well. I am surprised that you can't point to it immediately. You have to do better to convince me because in the past you have failed miserably to provide evidence.

      • Now isn't that a convenient self-deceptive sticky-wicket. You want clarification but they can't post anymore links to prove it. LOL

        That's okay, all your readers who do more than "...looked at all of these (briefly)..." now realize that the description of "liar" wasn't any kind of insult at all. You're the ONLY one who doesn't realize that. Enjoy wallowing in that bliss of self-inflicted ignorance. Everyone else in the world is not thus handicapped.

        • You can't post numerous links without more precision. I am not going to trawl through thousands of words of science to find your evidence. You produce the evidence. It is your argument.

  • By all means show this to whatever child you were carrying at the time so it knows you valued it less than your cats. Don't blame your grandfather for not speaking to you.

    BTW, per the CDC, toxoplasmosis causes between 4,000 and 5,000 stillborn, blind, deaf, epileptic, encephalitic, hydrocephalic and severely deformed, mentally disabled infants in the US--ANNUALLY.

    And the lies told by Mr. Broad notwithstanding, Toxoplasma gondii oocysts aerosolize, and persist and remain infectious in the environment for up to 4.5 years. This is why the primary means of infection is accidental inhalation and/or ingestion directly from the environment. Another thing to consider is that manifestation of symptoms--such as cerebral or ocular lesions--can take place in children YEARS after birth from an infected mother. Have a nice day.

    • Firstly, how do you expect me to allow your comment to remain published when you insult the person who owns the website? You have a bizarre attitude to life. Nonetheless I have left your comment up because I want to respond to it.

      If you say I am lying then you will is have to conclude that all other sources are also providing misinformation and that the authors are lying. In addition, you will have to provide a link, a direct link to the reference that you have provided that the oocysts are in the air and remain infectious before and a half years.

      Lastly CDC itself provides misinformation as I explained in an earlier post.

  • Many years ago, when I was pregnant with my first, we has 2 cats. They never went outdoors unless in harness and on a leash. Our cats walked the dog with us every day. My grandfather, who was NOT an animal person told us to "get rid of the cats". My answer to him was "I'll get rid of the kid first!" Needless to say, he didn't speak to me for the rest of my pregnancy. I scooped the litter box since I was doing it anyway. I'm still alive, all 3 of my children are still alive and my grandchildren and great grandchild are thriving. I took precautions and wore plastic gloves (for the first week, then just washed up well). It makes me want to shake the heck out of people who are still so stupid!!!

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