Cats and pregnant women

This month’s “Scientific American” says that pregnant women should not be around cats. In fact it says that well-informed pregnant women should get skittish around cats, and shouldn’t even garden if cats are in the vicinity.

So what does a women do if she owns a cat and then gets pregnant? Does she have to get rid of the cat, or what?


Yep. Or at least, never go within 3 feet of the litter box or any feces.

It can be toxic to the fetus.

The only thing I’ve heard is that preganant women need to avoid cat litter while pregnant. I don’t know if it is the litter itself or that it is where the cats go to the bathroom and there is some issue with cat waste.

If it is cat waste that is the problem then I suppose handling a cat while pregnant you run the risk of getting whatever it is into your system (tiny amount left on paws from the litterbox for instance).

I’ll do a quickl search and see if I can find anything (or someone beates me to it).

I assume we’re talking about toxoplasmosis here?
If so, I’ve had vets and OB-GYNs both take the position that toxoplasmosis is a risk, but if you aren’t exposed directly to infected feces, then you’ll be OK.

Of course, we are talking about risks to the fetus, so better safe than sorry, I guess.

Staff report on cats’ “poison claws” covers this, toxoplasmosis - scroll down to the end of the article.

Here ya go…

A little other reading I did said this is mostly of concern if you come into contact with cat feces while pregnant so pregnant women should not change the litter box. Beyond that it doesn’t seem as if just being around a cat is all that great a risk.

If you are pregnant and for some reason the only person who can change the litterbox then use a mask and gloves. Maybe not 100% proof against infection but it can’t hurt and would likely help some.

Sorry, but anything less than 100% is not a risk I’m going to take with my unborn child.

If I had a cat while pregnant and no-one else could change the litter box, I would find the cat a nice temporary home. It just isn’t worth it.

If the cat’s an indoor-only cat, where is it going to contract toxoplasmosis? From the dry cat food you feed it? If she (pregnant woman) has an outdoor cat, it’s posible (even probable) that it’s already been infected, and so has she, and so she has antibodies. You can even get tested (and test your cat), and if you have the antibodies, you’re pretty well protected.

I mean, out of however many cat owners who give birth every year, we do not have an epidemic of toxiplasmosis-related problems, I think it’s about 1000 babies in the US a year, and most of those are minor problems. Plus, not all of those will have been due to a cat, as you can get toxiplasmosis from undercooked meat (like where the cat would get it).

Lots of web references, like:

Don’t clean the litterbox if you have an outdoor cat who has not previously been exposed to toxoplasmosis, and if the neighbourhood cats use your garden as a litterbox, maybe get someone else to garden if you haven’t already been exposed. But let’s not go overboard about this.

Cats can be tested for toxoplasmosis. Besides avoiding litterbox duties, avoid handling raw meat. If you have handled raw meat in the past, you probably already have been exposed to toxoplasmosis. Humans can be tested as well.

I thought they were to avoid cats so their unborn babies wouldn’t be born with feline characteristics bringing them closer to being servants of Satan

Just saying that considering the source of any information is, itself, information. In this case, while the material on the site may, in fact, be accurate and correct, it may also be canted in some ways. Bias is not always intentional, of course. But a site devoted to pets may have a different way of analyzing and writing about this disease than, say, the CDC’s. Carry on.

Hmmm…when my mom was pregnant with my sister, our cat Fluffy, who was still less than a year old, used to sleep on top of my mom’s huge stomach. It was quite a sight.

Also eating rare meat presents a risk to a pregnant woman’s fetus for toxoplasmosis.

(We had one longhaired cat who was ill and often had issues with his fur and his bathroom routine - I’d imagine that’s why SA is saying “get rid of the cat” Cat with dirty butt jumping on your lap is unpleasant in the best circumstances - but could damage the health of the fetus if the woman is pregnant.)

Pregnant women have no fun - can’t drink, can’t smoke, have to eat their veggies, can’t eat their steak medium rare (the right way), have to get plenty of rest. Having to give up cleaning the litterbox doesn’t seem like its going to rank on the top things I gave up when pregnant.

Here is a pretty detailed explanation of the science involved, the risks and preventions you can take:

Some excerpts:

The site also addresses “How is My Cat a Risk to Me?” and “How Can I Avoid Infection?”


Quoted the wrong excerpt (I meant to quote a different one, that is):

It seems to me that the risk is limited to certain situations, and can be contained with proper dilligence, but the medical community in a typical CYA mentality preaches “better absolutely safe than possibly sorry in any instance.”

It is possible you or our cat have already had toxoplasmosis, in which case it seems there is no further danger. If not, takng simple precautions (like emptying the litter box more than once a day, before the oocysts can sporulate (I’m just quoting here!)) and your pet doesn’t have to be cast out while you’re expecing.

The article’s pretty interesting. It says that rodents initially ingest the protozoan and then the rodent must be eaten by a cat because cats are the only species in which toxoplasma can sexually reproduce and be shed. So in order to ensure its life cycle it disables the portion of rodent’s brain that normally causes it to shy away from the smell of cat.

The article is very specific in saying that the taxoplasma can affect most other species and that pregnant women should definitely not be around cats.

My mum used to have a stray cat coming over to her house all the time for food. My mum would feed it. But when she was pregnant with me, she had to turn it away.

Better to be safe than sorry.