by Dr. Melissa Kinnison
Myth: A pregnant woman should get rid of their cat.
WRONG! I’ve actually had a human doctor give this advice to a client of mine. This kind of advice drives me crazy. It shows a complete lack of understanding of the disease called Toxoplasmosis. Unfortunately, I have found out over the years that many human doctors have not had adequate training in Zoonotic diseases (those which are transmissible from animals to humans).
Toxoplasmosis is caused by a parasite which can be dangerous to a developing fetus in a human being. The most common way that a human is infected with Toxoplasmosis is through the consumption of rare or raw meat. Although it is true that a cat could potentially transmit Toxoplasmosis to a human, a whole series of specific events would have to occur that are actually quite rare.
Cats get a bad rap because they are the only species the Toxoplasmosis organism uses as an intermediate host. Usually what happens is the cat eats infected raw meat and the organism undergoes development within the cat and for a brief period (about 2 weeks). The organism can then be shed in the feces of the cat.
In order for Toxoplasmosis to infect a human and do damage to a developing fetus from a cat, the following events would have to happen:
1) The woman would have to be in her first trimester.
2) The cat would have to be fed raw infected meat during this time.
3) The cat would then shed Toxoplasmosis for approximately 2 weeks of its entire life. Then they never shed the organism again (unless reinfected).
4) The woman would have to eat or ingest the infected cat’s feces (possibly by cleaning the cat litter box).
So, you can see that you might have better odds of winning the lottery than having your developing baby get Toxoplasmosis from a cat.
What should a woman do if pregnant?
1) Do not consume rare or raw meats.
2) Don’t feed your cat rare or raw meats.
3) Let someone else clean out the litter box during your first trimester.
4) Avoid gardening or wear gloves when gardening, in case cats have been defecating in the garden.
5) Relax, enjoy your pregnancy, and for heaven’s sake~ don’t get rid of your cat!