Toxoplasma…wha? So can I change the litter box while pregnant?

Okay, I think this one was made up by a pregnant woman to get out of cleaning the kitty litter.

I can’t say I blame her, between morning sickness and an extra 30lbs, scooping out cat poo is about the last thing you want to do. But what if you’re the only one around and your cat is standing on a mountain of crap?

The big scare on this one is something called toxoplasmosis. It’s a parasite that is transmitted between warm blooded animals. You can get it from ingesting the raw or uncooked meat from something infected with it or from ingesting the feces of an infected cat. It can cause all kinds of nasty problems in an unborn child like brain damage and blindness, just to name a few.

The cat most likely got it from eating an infected rodent so if Mittens is an indoor cat, you’re probably okay. Even if he does have it, you literally have to ingest the parasite (well technically a cyst called an oocyst) in his poop.

This one also sounds like a bit of a run away train because if you worry about the poop in the litter box, then you need to worry about the poop that may be in garden soil and if you don’t garden well what about the person who was gardening and shook your hand and then you touched your mouth?! You see where this one is going.

It looks like this is a relatively rare thing and to it sounds like becoming infected when you’re pregnant is a bit of a perfect storm but with the effects being so scary, it gets a lot of attention.

Hey, if you can get out of it, go for it. If you can’t, a little hand washing or glove wearing will go along way, that, and maybe cutting down on your cat shit consumption – at least during your pregnancy anyway.

search: toxoplasmosis, cat litter during pregnancy, oocyst

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69 Comments

  • I had to look into toxoplasmosis quite a lot when we found out I was pregnant (totally unplanned and unexpected, but we’re all happy now the initial shock has worn off). A matter of weeks before finding out about the pregnancy we got a couple of feral kittens from a farm and it turned out the whole litter was not at all well. The risk was highlighted by Mum who had herself suffered a miscarriage as a result of a toxoplasmosis infection, we were sheep farmers when I grew up and sheep can become infected by toxoplasmosis as well as cats and pass it on to pregnant ladies to, so any one who works around sheep ought to look into the risk to them if they are in plan on becoming pregnant. As mentioned my kittens were feral kittens from a farm, the infection rate of feral cats in the UK for toxoplasmosis is quoted as possibly being as high as 50% so with these kittens being feral and showing all the symptoms of the infection we knew there was potentially a very significant risk to the baby and as soon as we found out about my pregnancy I didn’t go anywhere near them and my boyfriend took over all care, with a lot of advice from a vet friend. Unfortunately we did lose both kittens in the end, they did live about a fortnight longer than any other kitten in the litter of 10 so we gave them the best possible chance. So it is a bit of a perfect storm situation! I have had a blood test which has come back negative and will be tested for this in addition to the normal blood tests that will be performed through out my pregnancy to keep an eye. From the reading I did if you have an indoor cat there is very little chance of picking it up from your cat, there’s an increased risk if your cat is out and about hunting and interacting with wild populations, or if you cat is feral. If you did get infected the effects vary depending on the stage of pregnancy when you are infected. I was quoted 15% chance of transmission to baby with an early, infection and the effects can include miscarriage, fluid on the brain and eye sight problems including blindness, the risk of passing it on to baby increase further through the pregnancy increase but the effects whilst still bad are less and treatable. So whilst if you have the perfect storm going on this is something you really need to think about, for most people toxoplasmosis isn’t something to lose a lot of sleep over!

    • I always thought lambs were listeria. Hey, either way, stay away from sheep when they are giving birth, right? You made some excellent points. Plus, you guys are awesome for trying to help those kittens – I think barn cats either have a lifespan of 20 minutes or 20 years.

  • Just to diffuse some myths…I don’t own a cat, nor have I been around a cat and I have been diagnosed with Toxoplasmosis. I do garden and I eat my meat rare so I could have contracted the parasite from either of those ways. While it is rare, and quite frankly, scary, it does happen. I am proof of that. And it is no fun at all. I have been miserable sick, from the parasite and from the meds. I am not an extremist so I ate sushi, still ate my steaks rare, drank a glass of wine or two here and there and probably did many other things that are taboo during my first pregnancy. I would have never guessed that I would have something as serious as this. Both the baby and I could be impacted by both the meds and the parasite itself. So who knows. I just wanted to share because while I agree and respect the post and the comments, toxoplasmosis is real and sucks!!!

  • Another vet weighing in here… If you have to change your cat box (like me), scooping it at least every 24 hours reduces your risk GREATLY. The oocysts are not immediately infective, so frequent cleaning decreases the likelihood that you would be exposed to an infective oocyst.

    Also important to note, there is some belief that it is possible to infected from inhaling the dust from the litter when changing the box, so don’t get too hung up on "eating poop" being the only way it’s transmitted.

  • I’m milking this train all the way to delivery! My husband said he’d take care of it as soon as I got pregnant and he has been true to his word (he does have to be reminded to do it though). I hate scooping the boxes.

  • When I was prego I asked my cat's vet about this (figured my ob would rather me be cautious even of a low risk). The vet told me most cats get this at some point but it only stays present for a short time. She said to avoid the litter box if possible and if not to wear gloves and possibly a mask. She also said to vacume more because the cat could track particles throughout the house and to wash my hand even after just patting the cat. She had treated my cat since he was a kitten and was ALWAYS an indoor cat, he is kind of pathetic and would not last a minute outside lol.

  • I have to say, I'm a little disappointed you didn't get into the whole "having to eat poop" aspect of getting toxoplasmosis. I have two cats, and this is the second baby I am pregnant with who gets to experience in utero the true bliss of sifting through cat waste. I must admit, resisting the urge to grab one of those tasty little nuggets and toss it in my mouth is a little tough on this pregnant lady, but most the time, I pull through.

  • I'm a cat lover and animal science student, so of course I have to weigh in on this topic!

    According to every last one of my professors, not to mention science, the only way toxoplasmosis is a danger to expecting mothers is if they are exposed to the parasite for the first time in their lives while pregnant. Like all viruses, toxoplasmosis is in your body for life once infected. This goes for cats, humans, and all animals.

    Translation: if you own an indoor cat that has tested negative, you will be JUST fine, as long as the cat stays indoors. If you own an indoor cat that tested positive long ago (like me), chances are you have already been exposed to the virus and your body has already built up an immunity, has it under control, therefore it poses no threat to your baby.

    The risk comes when expecting mothers come in contact for the first time with the feces of a cat that has contracted toxoplasmosis. End of story!

  • This is NOT a myth. My grandmother was born blind because her mother was exposed to the parasite from her cat. So all of you ladies who have your wonderful husbands cleaning up the cat poo you can go on milking it with out feeling like you are getting away with something (unless you like to feel that way) because it is a very real risk.

  • My husband refuses to touch the cat litter unless I am away (and even then it's a struggle, I usually have to get my stepson to do it) – so I knew that this wasn't even an option for me when I became pregnant. But I also read up on it and realized that my chances of getting exposed to anything were pretty small, considering my cat is an indoor cat, and I don't make a habit out of feeding her raw meat anyway. Everything has been fine, and this way, I don't have to listen to my husband complain for 9 months that I'm making him do something he hates after convincing him to allow me to have cats in the first place. I'd much rather keep the peace! πŸ™‚

  • Thankyou! Thankyou for spreading THE TRUTH! I am a vet and it annoys the hell out of me when I have women say they had their husband put the cat in the car and they can't touch the cat box to bring it into the clinic, or be present in the same room as the cat for fear of toxoplasma. I've also had people say their doctor told them to lose the cat. (although I wonder if they never liked the cat in the first place and wanted an excuse).

    I was tested pre pregnancy and I had not been exposed. You know what? No surprise there – I DON'T EAT CAT POO! I wash my hands before eating, after touching patients, after cleaning cat litter trays. So I had to be careful during pregnancy – you know, I had to keep washing my hands, or wear gloves. Easy!

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