Pregnancy and Litter Box

Isabella

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I don't know how many of you have heard that pregnant women should not change their cats' litter boxes. If you haven't heard, just type the keywords "pregnant women" and "litter box" and a lot of articles will come up. It is due to a certain bacteria that is found in a cat's stool that, once makes contact with fetus, may cause birth defects in a baby.

My question then is this: even if you - as a pregnant woman - don't change your cat's litter box, doesn't simple contact with your cat put you at risk? I mean, cats wash themselves, including their reproductive and urinary parts. I can easily conceive of the bacteria being carried from the urinary organ to the cat's fur, via cat's tongue. Then you pet that cat. Isn't that a risk as well? I am concerned because I know I'll never give up having cats (and dogs and fish), so what should I do when I decide to have children of my own one day?
 

chickadee

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I can only go by my time as a nurse, Isabella and that was a while ago; but at that time quite a few obstetricians that I knew were pretty adamant about the pregnant women that they took care of not owning cats. Most of them suggested that if they did not want to lose complete custody of their cats that they at least find a family member or neighbor to look after them during their pregnancy and to stay away from them during their pregnancy totally. Then after the pregnancy was completed the cat was welcome to come home. The problem is very real and a real danger to both mother and child and serious enough to take measures to remove the cat from the home if only temporarily.

Rose
 

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HI there,

The illness you are referring to is Toxoplasmosis it's caused by a parasite called toxoplasma gondii. This is found in different forms in raw meat, in soil, on sheep and within cats who eat raw meat and their faeces.

Toxoplasmosis infection is common in both men and women outside of pregnancy, in fact by the time they reach 25-30 years of age 30-35% of people will have already contarcted it. Once you have had toxoplasmosis, the body develops immunity and exposure during pregnancy is not an issue. However, if this infection is contracted during pregnancy it is potentially dangerous, as it can lead to infection in the unborn infant, called congenital toxoplasmosis.

Having said that, it is relatively rare for pregnant women to contract Toxoplasmosis, research suggests that only 1-2 in every 1000 pregnant woman will catch it per year. Even if a woman does conatract it during pregnancy in only about 30-40% of cases does the infection pass to the unborn baby.

There is absolutely no reason for a pregnant woman to get rid of her cat! Indeed, you are much more likely to catch Toxoplasmosis from undercooked or raw meat, dirty vegetables or by gardening than from your cat.

Avoiding contracing Toxoplasmosis during pregnancy is not a case of needing to completely change your life, It is just a case of taking some precautions....Ensuring you only eat meat that has been thoroughly cooked(no pink bits), washing your hands, cooking utensils and food surfaces after preparing raw meat, washing fruit and vegetables properly, wearing gloves when gardening and if possible, getting someone else to clean out the cat litter tray....If this is not possible make sure you wear gloves and wash your hands afterwards.

You really don't have to get paranoid about owning a cat while pregnant and there is absolutely no reason to stop stroking your cat, just ensuring that you wash your hands regularly is enough to remove any risk.

I know by replying I am reviving an old topic, but I just wanted to add my knowledge on this issue and try to dispell a few myths.

Amanda
 
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Isabella

Isabella

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Stitsbabe said:
I know by replying I am reviving an old topic, but I just wanted to add my knowledge on this issue and try to dispell a few myths.
Amanda, not at all - please feel free to revive any topic(s) you wish. That is why our forum exists.

Besides, thank you very much for this information! I was very glad to read this, and it - sort of - relieved me in a way. I cannot imagine my life without my pets (cats, fish, and hopefully a beautiful dog or two someday ...). You seem to have a lot of knowledge on this subject. May I ask if you, perhaps, work in a medical setting? If not, where did you get all of this information from? Sorry for asking this, but I want to be absolutely sure that the information I am getting is accurate. This is no trivial matter and I want my children to be born healthy once I start my own family.

I don't really "garden" and don't have much to do with soil. But do you think that it's enough to touch soil to contract the infection? Can this parasite find its way into a human body through skin? Or are you safe as long as you wash your hands? I do go to the beach in the summer and it's impossible not to have contact with the sand on the beach. As for meat ... the only meat I eat is chicken and turkey (and sometimes ham on a sandwich); I don't eat red meats. And ... of course ... I don't eat raw chicken, lol Anyway, is smoked ham safe?

Stitsbabe said:
Toxoplasmosis infection is common in both men and women outside of pregnancy, in fact by the time they reach 25-30 years of age 30-35% of people will have already contarcted it. Once you have had toxoplasmosis, the body develops immunity and exposure during pregnancy is not an issue.
Really? I have never known anyone who had this infection, though it is apparently quite common. What are the symptoms of this infection, once someone gets it? How is it treated? Is it easily treatable? How soon after contraction does the infection become apparent?

Sorry for all of my questions, but I found your information very helpful and it stirred even more curiosity in me, lol Once again, thanks a lot for replying.

P.S. My cats never eat raw meat - the only foods they eat are canned cat food and dry cat food, plus they love to eat hard-boiled eggs as well as ham that I make my sandwich with.
 

Stitsbabe

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Isabella said:
You seem to have a lot of knowledge on this subject. May I ask if you, perhaps, work in a medical setting? If not, where did you get all of this information from? Sorry for asking this, but I want to be absolutely sure that the information I am getting is accurate. This is no trivial matter and I want my children to be born healthy once I start my own family.
Well, I was a veterinary nurse before I became a mummy and so learnt a lot about all sorts of illnesses and injuries that affect animals....having a passion for cats, I learnt all I caould about them, in particular.
In due course I was taught about illnesses, infections etc that can be transmitted to humans. Toxoplasmosis was one of those illnesses.
That was quite a few years ago now and I know that medical opinions change over time as more infomation comes to light, so when I became pregnant with my second child I reresearched it....today before I replied I checked to ensure my infomation was up to date....and it is

I completely understand the need for accurate information, especially on medical matters and respect you for asking about my sources. I believe almost all of the information I have given is freely available in the public domain, try googling or check a well known site geared toward pregnancy, or if you prefer, you can look up the latest studies on toxoplasmosis in you local library(if it holds copies of medical journals, as most do).
Edit: Have a read through this pdf file, it's pretty informative.

Isabella said:
do you think that it's enough to touch soil to contract the infection? Can this parasite find its way into a human body through skin? Or are you safe as long as you wash your hands? I do go to the beach in the summer and it's impossible not to have contact with the sand on the beach. As for meat ... the only meat I eat is chicken and turkey (and sometimes ham on a sandwich); I don't eat red meats. And ... of course ... I don't eat raw chicken, lol Anyway, is smoked ham safe?
Firstly, no you cannot catch it from sand on the beach.
Toxoplasma gondiI lives as an internal parasite, but a bit like worms it's eggs and larvae are transmitted by direct contact, usually by getting the parasite on your skin(hands or fingers) and then unwittingly consuming it, it cannot infect you if it does not enter your body!
The reasons for the caution with soil, is that soil often contains faeces, which could contain the parasite. Toxoplasma gondiI can lay dormant in the soil for up to 18 months.

I'm not entirely sure about the smoked ham to be honest with you, I know these parasites live quite happily on raw and undercooked meat, but I'm not sure if the smoking process is enough to kill them.
Edit: I have just checked this out, the curing process does not kill the parasites! So Parma ham and alike are off the menu!
When you become pregnant, your midwife will give you a whole list of foods to avoid during pregnancy, I'm sure if you follow that list and ensure you wash and cook everything else preoperly, you will be fine!

Isabella said:
Really? I have never known anyone who had this infection, though it is apparently quite common. What are the symptoms of this infection, once someone gets it? How is it treated? Is it easily treatable? How soon after contraction does the infection become apparent?
You probably do know someone who has had it, they just don't realise they've had it. It is hard to diagnose Toxoplasmosis, as the symptoms can vary, from none at all, to a flu-like illness and in bad cases they are described as being similar to glandular fever. If Toxoplasmosis is suspected, the diagnosis can be confirmed with a blood test. The incubation period is 5-23 days, mild cases do not require any treatment, but more severe cases are treated with medications that are only available by perscription.


As you state that you do not feed your cats raw meat, I doubt that you'd be likely to catch Toxoplasmosis from them....unless of course they like to grab a bit of take away(in the shape of a bird or a mouse) from time to time.

I really don't mind replying and answering your questions, I'm glad I was able to help

I apologise for the long wait for my reply....I had to go do some Mummy stuff half way through typing my reply, when I returned and tried to post I'd been logged out....so I've had to retype, D'oh!
 

Butterfly

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When I was last pregnant (25 years ago) and my daughter was pregnant we were both told the same thing- let someone else change and wash the litter box. W. ash hands often especially after petting the cats. all went well, the children and gandchildren are healthy and happy. So I guess the best solution would be to keep the kitties and wash hands often.
Carol
 
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Isabella

Isabella

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Stitsbabe said:
I apologise for the long wait for my reply....I had to go do some Mummy stuff half way through typing my reply, when I returned and tried to post I'd been logged out....so I've had to retype, D'oh!
What "long wait"? LOL You've replied very fast, AND I do not expect anybody to reply to my posts/questions "immediately" ... hehe In fact, you didn't have to reply at all, and neither did you have to reply today, but I thank you for the fact that you wanted to and that you did

Carol ... this is all good to hear Thanks
 
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Isabella

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Amanda ... sorry to bother you again, lol , but another question came into my mind. A woman doesn't know she's pregnant for around a month ... during which time she doesn't get her period when she should. If a woman has contact with cats during this first month of pregnancy, not knowing that she is pregnant - and therefore not taking any precautions - do you think she's putting herself at a greater risk during that time?

Thanks for any answers
 

Stitsbabe

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HI Isabella, no need to apologise, I'm pleased to offer my opinions/help.

To be perfectly honest with you I doubt that the woman would be at any greater risk, my reasons are as follows.

As you cannot contract Toxoplasmosis from contact with your cat alone, I don't believe that by stroking a cat any person would be putting themselves at risk.
As for not taking precautions....I think that very few people would be cleaning their cat litler tray or gardening without washing their hands immediately afterwards. I know that I woud NEVER put my hands near my mouth or handle foodstuffs after cleaning dirty litter or gardening, without washing my hands and I sincerely hope others are the same lol

Unlike many infectious illnesses, toxoplasma gondiI is actually more likely to affect the unborn baby if it is contracted in the later stages of pregnancy. Thankfully it is less likely that it will be passed on to the baby from the mother, the further into pregnancy she advances.
That sounds a little confusing....I'll try my best to illustrate further.

Lets say, A woman who contracts Toxoplasmosis within the first trimester has a 60% chance of passing it on to her baby, there is only a 10% chance it will do any harm. Within the second trimester, there is a 40% chance of transmission and a 40% chance of harm and during the third trimester there is a 10% chance of transmission but a 60% chance of harm.
(Please note: All % are offered for illustration purposes only and are not factual)

I hope that makes what I said a little clearer :-\
 
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Isabella

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Thank you I don't think I am that worried anymore Yes, of course I do wash my hands after I clean my cats' litter boxes! I, too, hope others do the same!
 

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I too have had 4 pregnancies, while having cats, and all of my children are healthy. You just let someone lese changethe liter box and just love your kitties like normal.

Heidi
 

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