Pregnancy and Cat Litter Management

When it comes to pregnancy and cat litter, many women are concerned that being around their cat's litter box will affect their health. How dangerous is cat litter and waste and how can it be dealt with? The following article lists ways to care for your cat and still be safe during your pregnancy.

The Risk of Toxoplasmosis

Cats carry a disease called toxoplasmosis. This disease can be found in humans who eat insufficiently cooked meats, drink unpasteurized milk, or have been in contact with cat feces. The illness is mild, however, can be harmful to a fetus. Approximately 40 percent of Americans have been exposed to toxoplasmosis. There is a higher exposure rate among Americans whose cats live primarily outdoors. If you have been living with your cat for a while, you have most likely already been exposed to the disease and become immune to it.

How to Reduce Risk During Pregnancy

The following steps can be taken to lower your risk of infection while pregnant:

  • Have someone else clean the litter box. This is an simple way to lower your risk and give yourself a break. If you must clean the litter box yourself, use disposable gloves (rubber gloves can become contaminated and are difficult to clean) and wash your hands thoroughly when you're done. To avoid air exposure, change the litter box daily.
  • If your cat spends time outdoors, wear gloves when gardening or working in the yard. Do not garden in soil where your cat has eliminated. If you have children, don't let them play in sand that may have been contaminated by animals.
  • Have your cat tested for toxoplasmosis by your veterinarian to see if he has an active or high level of infection. If the test is positive, have him kenneled until the period the disease is transmissible to humans has passed (approximately six weeks).
  • Do not allow your cat to play with other cats during your pregnancy. Other cats may be carriers of an active infection and pass it to yours.

Symptoms of Toxoplasmosis in Cats

  • lethargy
  • depression
  • loss of appetite
  • fever
  • feline pneumonia

Extreme cases of toxoplasmosis can cause problems with the cat's eyes and nervous system resulting in blindness, loss of coordination, and seizures. Hepatitis can also occur causing vomiting and diarrhea. Remember, extreme cases of toxoplasmosis are rare. Any of the symptoms listed above should be brought to your veterinarian's attention immediately.

Most cats show no signs of illness. It can be diagnosed with a blood test that will identify the disease. It can also be found in the cat's feces, however, it can be mistaken for other parasites and therefore is not the best method of diagnosis.

Symptoms of Toxoplasmosis in Humans

Toxoplasmosis can occur without showing any symptoms. Signs of toxomplasmosis, if any, are generally flu-like and can include the following:

  • fever
  • swollen glands
  • headache
  • muscle pain
  • sore throat

Talk to your doctor about being tested for toxoplasmosis. Most doctors will only test women who are showing symptoms of the disease. Make your doctor aware that you are living with a cat and discuss your options.