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Pets and Pregnancy, Part One: Toxoplasmosis

Although there is no scientific proof that pets can sense their owner’s pregnancy, there seems to be some anecdotal evidence that they do detect changes in your mood, posture, behavior, and body chemistry during your pregnancy. Cats and dogs are highly attuned to changes in your daily routine- perhaps you are sleeping in later, hanging out on the couch more, or your partner and other family members are treating you with extra care.

Some cats find your warm, vibrating belly as a very soothing place to hang out; one of my cats liked watching the little kicks traveling across my growing belly. Other felines could care less, but they still need attention and love. A cat that feels neglected may act out aggressively or may start urinating in places other than the litter box- like on your bed, or in laundry baskets…all over the fresh wash.

Speaking of the litter box, let’s chat a little about a word that you will often hear when talking about cats and pregnancy - toxoplasmosis. According to the March of Dimes, one of the most common infections in the world, toxoplasmosis, is caused by a well-known parasite, toxoplasma gondii. More than 60 million people in the United States may be infected, yet do not know it as many times there are no symptoms and a healthy immune system can fight off the infection. However, this infection can cause “big health issues for your baby during pregnancy.” You can read more about toxoplasmosis and pregnancy here.

Unfortunately, one of the natural hosts of this parasite is the domestic cat. A person can become infected with toxoplasmosis if they come into contact with the feces of a feline carrying the parasite, consume contaminated food or water, use contaminated utensils while cooking, eat unwashed fruits and vegetables, or touch soil and sand containing the parasite.

So do you have to rehome your feline friend during your pregnancy due to the threat of becoming infected with toxoplasmosis? Fortunately, the simple answer is, “No.” There are steps you can take to avoid coming in contact with the nasty parasite, toxoplasma gondii.

  • DO NOT CLEAN KITTY’S LITTER BOX. Ask someone else to do it. One less chore for you.

  • Keep your cat indoors to prevent her hunting the rodents and birds that may carry the parasite.

  • Cats that do go outside tend to use children’s sandboxes and gardens, where there is loose sand or soil, as litter boxes. Wear gloves while you are gardening.

  • Wash or peel your fruit and vegetables before eating them.

  • Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat.

  • Be sure all of your utensils are clean.

  • Wash your hands frequently throughout the day.

Taking these precautions can help you avoid toxoplasmosis and serious health issues for your baby during your pregnancy. Good health to you, Baby, and your sweet feline friend!

To learn more about pets and pregnancy, including cats, dogs, and other furbabies, be sure to follow the next installment of our blog!

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