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Toxoplasmosis, Pregnancy & Felines - Are Indoor / Outdoor Cats Safe During Pregnancy?

5 Ways To Reduce Exposure to Toxoplasmosis

By Adam HeathPublished 2 years ago 4 min read
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Photo by Cats Coming: https://www.pexels.com/photo/white-and-gray-cat-in-brown-woven-basket-1543793/​

During pregnancy, there are a number of things considered “unsafe”. While unpasteurized foods, products that contain large amounts of mercury (like certain fish) and raw or undercooked foods can cause bacteria that is harmful to a mother and the baby.

While certain foods and beverages need to wait until after labor, there seems to be both concern and ambiguity about the safety of indoor / outdoor cats during pregnancy. The main cause of concern is toxoplasmosis - caused by the parasite toxoplasma gonddi - that can be passed from cats to humans.

What Is Toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis is one of the leading causes of death from foodborne illnesses. Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by the bacteria toxoplasma that is transmitted via food to humans from the parasite toxoplasma gondii.

Domesticated cats are also an important component in the life cycle of toxoplasma.

How Is Toxoplasmosis Transmitted to Humans?

Common foodborne transmission of toxoplasmosis occurs from the consumption of undercooked meat and shellfish.

Toxoplasmosis can also be transmitted through the feces of house cats if they have consumed raw or undercooked food. The bacteria can be passed through the feces if a feline has also eaten vermin like rodents, birds or smaller mammals. Felines shed this bacteria in their feces which can take between one to five days after excretion.

Is Toxoplasmosis Dangerous to Pregnant Women & Babies?

Yes - toxoplasmosis is dangerous to pregnant women, unborn babies and people in general. However - the danger of toxoplasmosis is magnified during pregnancy as this bacteria can travel through the Mother and onto the unborn baby. The damage caused by toxoplasmosis tends to be more severe, in the early stages of pregnancy, and can cause a miscarriage or abnormalities in the child’s head size.

Toxoplasmosis does not always show symptoms in the expectant mother. However, if the bacteria travels to the unborn baby, the expectant mother may unknowingly expose the baby to this bacteria. Some symptoms may present themselves at the time of birth while other symptoms may not become visible for years after the birth of the child.

What Can I Do To Minimize Toxoplasmosis During Pregnancy From a Cat?

Cats can play a large role in the transmission of Toxoplasmosis to humans. If you have an indoor / outdoor cat and become pregnant, there are certain safety measures an expectant mother can take to reduce the dangers of Toxoplasmosis spreading from a cat during pregnancy.

Have Someone Else Change The Litter Box

As mentioned above, toxoplasma is excreted through cat feces. Expectant mothers should task out this chore to another person in the household. If there are no other individuals in the household, necessary precautions should be taken like changing the litter box daily while wearing protective face coverings and latex gloves.

If an expectant mother has to change the litter box, ensure that all necessary precautions are taken to minimize exposure to Toxoplasma. Wear a medical grade mask, latex gloves and thoroughly wash your hands after changing the cat litter.

Frequently changing the cat litter can minimize exposure to Toxoplasma as the bacteria cannot become infectious until one to five days after it is shed from the feces of a cat.

Toxoplasma is transmitted from physical contact with infected material and enters the body through ingestion. Simply put, if you touch a surface contaminated with toxoplasma and then touch your face or mouth, exposure is possible.

Provide Only Dry & Wet Food To Your Cat

Commercially available cat food is required to meet certain guidelines. The FDA regulates pet food to ensure safety and sanitary conditions.

Go with brands that you trust from reputable retailers. Pet food purchased from outside the United States may have different rules and regulations - or no regulations at all - so ensure that cat food is purchased through a reputable supplier in the United States.

Cook All Food Thoroughly

If you feed your cat food, not specifically designed for a cat (like wet or dry food), it should be cooked thoroughly. This means no raw or undercooked food to a cat as bacteria can spread through non-fully cooked foods to the cat and pass onto humans.

If your cat enjoys animal protein like beef, pork, fish or poultry - ensure that all of these foods are cooked thoroughly.

Keep Your Cat Indoors

If possible - keep your cat indoors throughout the duration of the pregnancy. This may be possible for some cats, but other more adventurous cats may voice their displeasure vocally or physically by crying or scratching up furniture if they are unhappy about being kept indoors.

Put a Bell On Your Cat

If it is not possible or sustainable to keep a cat indoors - try putting a bell on your cat’s collar.

A bell will alert potential prey of the feline’s presence. The noise made from the bell should alert vermin of a potential threat and in turn should send signals to rodents and birds to seek safety.

If your cat cannot catch their prey, and consume the raw meat of the prey, then the cat will not potentially be exposed to the harmful bacteria.

While a bell can act as a deterrent to suspecting prey, it may not prevent all cats from successfully stalking their prey. If a cat is an especially skilled hunter, they may still be able to capture small birds or rodents with a bell on their collar.

If you live in an area with lizards or large insects, your cat may still be able to capture smaller reptiles and insects. However, toxoplasma appears to be most prevalent in warm blooded animals.

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About the Creator

Adam Heath

Adam graduated from Chico State with a degree in History and works in the digital marketing sector. An avid fan of baseball, you can find him sitting in Petco Park's bleachers or wolfing down a burrito in his free time.

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