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Pregnant women with cats at home must be mindful of toxoplasmosis

How to approach cat care while pregnant

Pregnant women receive a lot of advice while they’re with child. Much of that guidance comes from their physicians and is offered in an effort to ensure expecting mothers have healthy pregnancies.
Expecting mothers may be surprised by some of the precautionary measures their physicians recommend, while others measures, such as abstaining from alcohol, are more widely known.
One recommendation that women may be surprised by is the need to be cautious around their pets. For example, the March of Dimes, an organization devoted to ensuring the health of expecting mothers and their babies, recommends that women be careful with pets during pregnancy.
Pregnant women with cats at home must be mindful of toxoplasmosis, a disease that the Mayo Clinic reports results from infection with the toxoplasma gondii parasite. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cats get infected with the toxoplasma parasite by eating infected rodents, birds or other small animals.
Cats also can get infected if they eat anything that is contaminated with the feces of another cat that is shedding the parasite through its fecal matter.
The CDC notes that infected cats can shed the parasite for up to two weeks.
Because of the way the disease is contracted, cats may only be vulnerable to toxoplasmosis if they go outside. While that may reassure pregnant women whose cats stay indoors at all times, expecting mothers should still be vigilant even if their cats are indoor cats.
Cats that escape or go outdoors by accident, even if they’re quickly retrieved, can still be exposed to the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis.
The March of Dimes also notes that toxoplasmosis can be spread by cleaning kitty litter of infected cats or by touching dirt, such as garden soil, where infected cats may have been. That means even women whose cats stay indoors can be infected if they aren’t careful.
Protection against toxoplasmosis
Thankfully, the March of Dimes notes that expecting mothers can take various steps to protect themselves from toxoplasmosis during their pregnancies.
—Ask a family member who isn’t pregnant to clean out the litter box every day.
—Wear disposable gloves and a face mask if you clean out the litter box. Wash your hands well with soap and water immediately after cleaning the litter box.
—Keep your cat inside. In addition, make sure all guests do their part to keep the cat indoors when visiting.
—Stay away from stray cats and new cats.
—Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water after touching cat feces or after gardening.
—Cover sandboxes to prevent cats from using them as a litter box.
—Feed your cat dry or canned foods. Don’t feed cats undercooked meat, which can make them vulnerable to infection with the parasite.
Pregnant women with cats at home must be especially careful when interacting with cats or when spending time outdoors where cats may have roamed.

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