Preventing Toxoplasmosis Infection From Cats During Pregnancy

The risk of contracting toxoplasmosis during pregnancy is very rare. Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic infection that can cause birth defects in unborn children. It can be contracted through soil, undercooked meat, a dirty litter box or an infected animal. You can even contract it through uncooked foods that have come in contact with other contaminated food.

Most people do not show any symptoms when they are infected, however, symptoms are commonly similar to those of the flu. Blood tests will determine its presence.

Infection During Pregnancy

Approximately 50 percent of women infected with toxoplasmosis will pass it to their unborn baby. Women who have contracted the parasite six to nine months before pregnancy are generally immune and do not transmit it. Though infections are more likely to be transmitted later in the pregnancy, first trimester transmissions are typically the more serious.

Toxoplasmosis infections can cause visual, learning and hearing disabilities, and about one third of infected fetuses will display a visual deformity on the ultrasound. To determine if a fetus is infected, your doctor may run tests on the fetal fluids or blood. Blood tests may also be run on your baby after birth.

A toxoplasmosis infection can be treated during pregnancy with antibiotics. The earlier it is caught and treated, the less likely a transmission to the fetus will occur. If transmission does occur, certain medications can make it less severe; however, medications during the first year or more may be required.

Prevention in Cats

Though toxoplasmosis can be contracted directly from your cat in very rare cases, you are much more likely to catch it while cleaning the litter box or gardening. There are some simple tips you can take to ensure your cat's health and your own:

  • Don't feed your cat undercooked or raw meat. Meat that is undercooked or raw sometimes can harbor the parasite. Just as you wouldn't eat raw pork chops, see to it that your cat's portion is also well cooked.
  • Keep your cat indoors and avoid handling stray cats. The parasite can be in wildlife and your cat may contract it while hunting. During pregnancy, it may be wise to keep your cat indoors as much as possible. Also, avoid handling stray cats as many may also be infected.
  • Wear gloves when changing the litter box. If you can, get someone else to do this daily. Otherwise, wear gloves and wash your hands immediately and thoroughly after cleaning it to prevent any potential spread.
  • Wear gloves when gardening. Always wear gloves when gardening to prevent accidental contact with your cat's feces and any other soil that may be infected.
  • Have your cat checked. If you're concerned about the presence of toxoplasmosis in your cat, you can get him checked. Like humans, cats don't often show symptoms either, and a blood test is the only real way to confirm the presence of the parasite.

By following these five simple steps you can greatly reduce the likelihood of catching toxoplasmosis from your cat.

Though toxoplasmosis is an uncommon disease, caution should be taken with your cat during your pregnancy. If your cat is an outdoors one and hunts often, be sure to take steps to safeguard you and your baby's health. Likewise if you suspect you are infected, see your doctor promptly, as the risk of transmission increases over time. There is no effective vaccine for a toxoplasmosis infection, but by practicing good hygiene and safety, you can greatly reduce the chance of an infection.