Pregnant women and soiled cat litter

Cat sitting white backgroundWhen women become pregnant they do not need to get rid of the household cat as some people believe. It is just necessary to take a few precautions and ensure good hygiene. Pregnant women should avoid handling soiled cat litter trays.

Pregnant women (maybe at ‘high risk’) should avoid handling soiled cat litter trays as a precaution against Toxoplasmosis infection. It is caused by a parasite (Toxoplasma gondii) that infects cats and many other mammals, including humans.  Congenital toxoplasmosis caught by a pregnant woman and passed on to her baby while still in utero can produce serious neurological damage and birth defects. Therefore pregnant women should be particularly cautious in the first trimester (weeks 1 to 12).

An infection can lead to the following:

• miscarriage or stillbirth
• hydrocephalus (water on the brain) or brain damage
• damage to the eyes or other organs

Toxoplasma can cause birth defects, blindness and dementia and has been linked with schizophrenia and other psychotic disturbances. The most vulnerable groups of people are pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk.

Some pregnant women may have a natural immunity of antibodies, which can be ascertained by a blood test. However if you live with a cat there is a possibility that you have already contracted toxoplasmosis at some time and developed an immunity to it. The chances of contracting toxoplasmosis during pregnancy is very low, once you have had it you cannot catch it again.

Don’t take the Risk!

Pregnant women should also take care if gardening; wear rubber gloves even if you don’t have a cat. The reason is there may be cat and other animal faeces in the soil giving the risk of infection. Do not touch your face whilst gardening in case the soil is contaminated. Remember to thoroughly wash your hands afterwards even if you are wearing gardening rubber gloves, before touching any food. Wash the gloves too.

Wash your hands, cooking utensils and food surfaces after preparing raw meat and wash all the soil from fruit and vegetables before eating.

Cat Litter Trays

If your cat uses a litter tray, particularly if it is located indoors, it is best (if possible) not to locate it in the kitchen area. Any flies or insects may get on the cat faeces and then on to food and work surfaces possibly spreading disease.

  • Daily: dispose of litter tray contents. Thoroughly wash clean and disinfect the litter tray with pet friendly products. Do not use bleach to disinfect the litter tray.  Bleach is harmful to cats.
  • Try to avoid changing the litter tray yourself, if there is no chose wear disposable rubber gloves and ensure you wash your gloves and hands thoroughly afterwards.
  • Avoid close contact with any unwell cats.
  • If you touch or handle a cat wash your hands after. Do not put your hands to your face before washing your hands.

Why shouldn’t I change cat litter during pregnancy? Read more from NHS


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