ASK THE VET: Is My Cat Putting My Baby at Risk?
Answered by MHS Veterinarian Dr. Michael Redmer, D.V.M.
Q: I’m expecting my first child and my doctor suggested finding a new home for my cat due to something called toxoplasmosis. Of course I want to keep my cat, but am I putting my baby at risk?
A: The risk of an expectant mother passing toxoplasmosis to her unborn baby is quite minimal provided simple precautions are taken. Toxoplasmosis is a microscopic parasite that can result in death or serious birth defects to unborn babies if the infection is acquired during the pregnancy. Although cats can be a host of this parasite, the primary source of human exposure and subsequent infections is eating raw or undercooked beef.
Cats can generally transmit the parasite only for one period of 10-14 days during their entire lives that is, if they are infected. And the ideal way to keep your cat from being exposed to toxoplasmosis? Keep her indoors!
Furthermore, the parasites in an infected cat’s feces take at least two days under ideal environmental conditions to become potentially infectious and the feces must be ingested.
Pregnant women can eliminate potential risk of toxoplasmosis infection from the family cat by scooping the litter box daily, thereby not allowing the time necessary for the parasite to become potentially infectious. Daily litter box scooping and simple, basic hygiene such as washing your hands after handling pets will prevent accidental ingestion.
Also, remember the option preferred by nearly 100 out of 100 expecting mothers: Ask your spouse to scoop the litter box!
Please note that final recommendations concerning your health should be made in consultation with your medical doctor.