A lot of cat owners hear about this, your doctor told you about it, or a close friend, but sometimes you are not given all of the information. The sad fact is, some cat owners will even take their beloved pet to a shelter thinking they have no choice. I will do my best to explain what exactly Toxoplasmosis is and what it can do to you and your unborn child, as well as ways to avoid it.
Toxoplasmosis is a parasite that can affect cats and, if passed on to pregnant women, can cause the fetus to be miscarried, or be born afflicted with hydrocephalus, seizures, or mental disabilities. While this sounds quite terrifying, experts in parasitological science and public health agree, there is no reason for you to give kitty away to avoid infection.
There are simple steps a woman can take to avoid infection. The possibility of transmission of this parasite from an indoor cat to its pregnant owner is very unlikely. Any animal or bird can harbor this parasite. In fact about 50% of human adults have already been infected at some point in their lives without even knowing it. Animals become infected by eating prey, so an indoor cat that is fed commercial cat food, should not be a source of toxoplasmosis at all.
Owners get this infection by somehow ingesting the eggs of the parasite. The eggs are shed in the feces for 3-5 days, beginning 3-24 days after the animal contracted the infection. Basically if your cat should get this infection the chances of you contracting it from the feces are slim and limited to a month after your pet became infected. In addition to that, the eggs are not active until after the initial 24 hour period, so if ingested by an animal or human, which happens when you cat walks on furniture, counters ect. , in that time frame, there is no risk of infection. Gross I know. Bear with me here. This means if a pregnant woman wears gloves or has someone else clean the litter box every day, the chances of contacting toxoplasmosis are pretty much nonexistent.
Now that we fixed the problem with kitty, here are some other steps pregnant women need to take, to avoid getting toxoplasmosis from other sources. Raw and undercooked meats, as well as raw vegetables are common sources of this infection. Be sure to cook all meat to 151 degree Fahrenheit. Also hands and utensils that come in contact with raw meat should be washed thoroughly. Wash all vegetables thoroughly and wear gloves when gardening. Sandboxes should be kept covered due to stray or neighborhood cats.
The chances of contracting Toxoplasmosis from raw vegetables or undercooked meat are far greater than the chances of getting it from your kitty. By taking just a few precautions the health of all family members, including your pet, can be protected.
And always remember:
Keep you cats indoors
Feed your pet commercial cat food
Scoop the litter box daily wearing disposable gloves, or let someone else do it
Avoid undercooked meat and unwashed vegetables
Avoid materials that could be contaminated by outdoor cats. (Wear gloves when gardening, cover the sandbox ect.)