by Nomi Berger
The fear of a pregnant woman’s contracting toxoplasmosis should never be a reason to relinquish the family’s cherished feline companion. In fact, people are more likely to become infected with toxoplasmosis by eating unwashed vegetables from their garden or by ingesting undercooked meat than from their pet.
If yours is an indoor cat and neither hunts nor eats raw meat, the risk of her contracting toxoplasmosis is slim. But that said, simple common sense and the proper precautions will keep you and your family safe from potential harm.
What then, IS toxoplasmosis? It’s a disease caused by a one-celled parasite known as Toxoplasma gondii that can be transmitted to humans through direct contact with an infected cat’s feces.
When an expectant mother becomes infected with toxoplasmosis, her unborn child can also become infected by way of the placenta. The dangers posed to this unborn child include birth defects and fetal death. A woman infected with the parasite PRIOR to becoming pregnant, however, poses NO threat to her unborn child.
Most cats infected with toxoplasmosis show no symptoms whatsoever and shed oocysts (the infective stage in the life cycle of the Toxoplasma organism) in their feces for only a few days. Since it takes a minimum of 48 hours for the oocysts to become infectious, scrupulous cleaning of your cat’s litter box DAILY will prevent its transmission. But the cornerstone to true protection is practicing good hygiene.
And that means donning a pair of disposable gloves, using a plastic or metal poop scoop, properly disposing of the feces, and then thoroughly washing your hands. Or a pregnant woman can avoid cleaning and changing the family cat’s litter box altogether by having another household member do it instead.
To further err on the side of caution, pregnant women should wash their hands thoroughly before handling or eating any food. They should avoid handling or eating raw meat. Wearing gloves while preparing meat and washing their hands afterwards will also help avoid infection. Pregnant women should wear gloves when gardening since both sand and soil may contain the infected feces of neighborhood cats. All fruits, vegetables and herbs from the garden should be washed thoroughly before being eaten. Any outdoor cats should be kept inside and never fed raw meat while a woman is pregnant.
And so, by taking these simple, but basic, precautions, all loving cat guardians can be assured of keeping their cats precisely where they belong – at home.