“Pregnant women should avoid cats.”

If you’re pregnant and own a cat, you’ve probably heard this common myth a few times. So, before you consider rehoming your beloved cat, rest assured that exposure to cats won’t harm a developing foetus, but it is important to make some changes to how you handle their cat litter tray.

So where has this myth come from? Cat faeces can spread toxoplasmosis, which in pregnancy is a dangerous infection that can cause birth defects.

What is toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a microscopic parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. In most cases, the effects of toxoplasmosis are mild, and it often goes undetected, but for pregnant women, toxoplasmosis is very risky, as the parasite from the faeces can infect the placenta and the unborn baby.

The most common way humans become infected with the parasite is through direct contact with infected animal faeces. Cats are a common host as they pick up the parasite from eating infected rodents or birds.

What are the symptoms of toxoplasmosis?

Symptoms are very similar to the symptoms of the flu, e.g. fever, headaches, aches and pains, etc. and often infection shows no symptoms at all.

What happens if my baby becomes infected?
Most children born with toxoplasmosis won’t show any signs of infection at birth but will begin to show signs months to years later. Signs and symptoms can include fever, swollen lymph nodes, jaundice and rashes and bruises under the skin. They often have an unusually large or small head and can have brain and nervous system problems. They are also at high risk of retina damage which results in blindness.

How to avoid toxoplasmosis.

Infection can be prevented by practising good hygiene. In particular, pregnant women should do the following to reduce the risk of infection:

•• Wash hands thoroughly before eating.
•• Wear gloves while gardening.
•• Avoid contact with cat faeces and their rear ends.
•• Ideally, your partner should handle the emptying of your cat’s litter tray; however, if this is not possible, wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly after emptying.
•• Don’t scoop; it’s best to make sure that litter trays are thoroughly emptied, cleaned and filled with fresh litter daily.

We treat your pets as if they were our own and are proud to have been caring for Cairns’ furry family members since 1966. With a vet available 24/7, 365 days per year, we are always here when you need us.


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