Toxoplasma gondii is a single celled parasite that infects many mammals, but cats are unique in that they shed the parasite in their feces. Pregnant women should take precautions to avoid exposure to cat feces and any other source of contamination by Toxoplasma gondii while they are pregnant.
Infection by Toxoplasma is Rare, but Serious
Infection by Toxoplasma gondii is rare in cats and people, but very serious. Pregnant women, who have never been exposed to the organism, and who become infected during pregnancy, are at risk for serious, and even life threatening birth defects in their child.
Toxoplasma gondii is a single celled parasite that infects small mammals and humans. It is very long-lived in the environment and can even survive treatment at sewage facilities. It is common worldwide. For more on the life cycle of toxoplasma gondi go here.
Most people experience no signs or symptoms when infected, but a minority may experience clinical signs similar to the flu including headaches, sweats, muscle pain and lethargy. Cats too rarely show perceptible signs of infection, but may experience loss of appetite, lethargy and fever. For more on the signs and symptoms of infection by toxoplasma, go here
Before you can become infected with toxoplasmosis from your cat, several factors need to be in place. First, you have to had no previous exposure and developed no immunity to toxoplasma. As we mentioned above, the organism is very common and 15% of all pregnant women are likely to have been previously exposed and are subsequently immune to infection. Secondly, your cat must have an active infection of toxoplasma. Again, this is improbable, but not impossible. Lastly, the pregnant woman must be exposed to the organism in some way, either through improper handling of cat waste or some other unhygienic habit where the organism (present in cat feces) finds its way into the woman’s body. For more on infection by toxoplasma go here.
No! Close attention to good hygiene and the proper handling of cat waste is 100% effective in eliminating risk of infection by Toxoplasma gondii.
- Buy an absorbant, clumping litter and remove waste from the litter pan daily.
- Wear disposable rubber gloves or wash hands thoroughly after handling any cat waste.
- Enlist the help of someone else in the family to clean the cat litter pan daily.
- Avoid contact with any vegetables or any other thing that may have come in contact with soil where cats have eliminated.
- Do not eat undercooked meats.
- Do not feed your cat undercooked or raw meats.
More on the topic of avoiding infection by toxoplasma.
Just Be Sensible and Careful
Congratulations on your pregnancy. Remember that infection by Toxoplasma gondii by way of your cat is very unlikely. Still, simple, sensible precautions should be taken for the benefit of your unborn child and general good health.