Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Pregnancy and Having a Cat: Dispelling the Old Wives Tales!

Every year cat’s protection receives hundreds of calls from concerned pregnant women who fear they will contract toxoplasmosis from their cat. Though cats do play a part in the life cycle of the parasite, human contact with the cat alone does not increase the risk of infection. Statistically non- cat owners are just as likely to contract the disease and even vets are no more likely to be infected with the parasite than non-vets.

Research has shown that the biggest risk of contracting the infection is through eating undercooked meat or consuming contaminated soil via unwashed vegetables. Contracting the infection will not make you seriously ill however; it could affect unborn babies if it is picked up for the first time during early pregnancy.

 What is toxoplasmosis?
Toxoplasmosis is caused by the microscopic parasite T.gondii (Toxoplasma gondii)
Cats become infected with this parasite when they consume uncooked meat that contain the T gondii cysts, this includes infected rodents. Cats will begin to shed the oocysts in their faeces for 10-14 days but do not usually shed again unless the cat contracts a serious illness such as FeLV or FIV meaning a healthy adult cat should not pose a risk to their owner or an unborn child. Good hygiene considerably reduces the risk of infection as oocysts only become infectious between one and five days after being passed in the faeces.

How to reduce the risk of infection via cats
·     Get somebody else to change your cat’s litter tray possible and if you cannot, wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly after.
·    Change cat litter daily as T.gondii is infectious between one and five days after the cat defecates.
·    Do not feed your cat raw meat.
·    Keep outdoor play sand boxes covered.
·    Wear gloves when gardening in case a cat has defecated in the area.
If you have cats it is very likely that you've already contracted toxoplasmosis and become immune to it and fortunately with good hygiene it is unlikely that you will contract toxoplasmosis during pregnancy. If you are still concerned you can get your cat tested at your local vets. To further reduce the risk, ask somebody else to clean the litter trays for you daily and if not possible use gloves and wash your hands thoroughly after.