When you’re pregnant, there are a thousand health and environmental factors to keep track of, from caffeine intake to which yoga positions are safe for you and baby. But did you know that cat litter boxes can also pose a health risk for pregnant women?
Read on to find out everything you need to know about cat litter and pregnancy – and more specifically, the risks surrounding toxoplasmosis infections.
What is toxoplasmosis and how is it transmitted?
Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by a parasite called toxoplasma gondii. One of the most common ways for humans to catch this disease is by changing a cat’s litter: first, a cat becomes infected after coming into contact with (i.e. eating) an infected rodent, bird, or other small animal. The toxoplasma parasite is then passed in the cat’s feces, and can stick around for approximately three weeks.
You may be exposed to toxoplasma while changing your cat’s litter box, or while gardening if your cat also eliminates waste outdoors. Touching your mouth during or after these activities can introduce the parasite to your system. The same goes for eating contaminated fruits or vegetables without washing or peeling them.
How does toxoplasmosis affect unborn children and newborns?
Typically, toxoplasmosis does not cause major issues for adults. In fact, most people stay completely asymptomatic (though some do experience flu-like symptoms). It poses the greatest health risk to newborns, and can be transmitted to an unborn child if a pregnant woman becomes infected.
If you contract toxoplasmosis when newly pregnant or get infected during pregnancy at any point, you may pass the infection on to your unborn child. Most infants do not present symptoms at birth, but they may begin to develop serious complications later on, including blindness and mental disability. In some cases, birth defects like eye or brain damage will be immediately apparent.
If you were infected with toxoplasmosis before becoming pregnant, your unborn child should be protected by your immunity. Some experts recommend waiting 6 months to conceive after you’ve been infected, just to be safe.
How can I protect myself? Do I have to rehome my cat?
Don’t worry – you don’t have to say goodbye to your cat just because you’re pregnant. A few simple precautions will keep you protected.
- Have someone else change the cat litter whenever possible. If nobody else is able to do it, wear gloves, and wash your hands immediately afterward.
- Change the litter daily. Toxoplasma only starts becoming infectious between 1 to 5 days after your cat passes a stool.
- Avoid feeding your cat raw or undercooked meat.
- Keep your cat indoors if possible.
- Wear gloves while gardening, or while in contact with sand or soil, since these areas might be your cat’s “outdoor litter box.”
- Do not come into contact with stray cats or kittens, and avoid bringing a new cat into the home while you are pregnant.
Keep bacteria and odors at bay with LitterLocker
Safely dispose of used cat litter with a LitterLocker! Our cat waste disposal system uses Air-Seal technology to lock in odors and bacteria, so changing your cat’s litter can be a hygienic and hassle-free experience. It also only needs to be refilled every one to two months! Meanwhile, our modern litter box is designed to give your cat the comfort and security it needs, facilitate simple disposal of soiled litter, and look great as part of your home decor.