Many people have had a lot of questions about being safe around animals during pregnancy. The most commonly asked question is “Is it safe to be around cats when you’re expecting?” We hope to answer that question and maybe give a few more tips about being safe around pets when you or a loved one is expecting.
Is it safe to be around cats? The short answer is yes, but precautions should be taken to protect the mother. Generally when people ask this question, they have the disease toxoplasmosis in mind. Toxoplasma is a parasite that can be very harmful to an unborn baby if the mother acquires the infection for the first time during pregnancy. It can cause miscarriage, neurological defects (brain damage), blindness, and other symptoms. Some of these symptoms may not be apparent at birth, but they may become evident as the child grows. Cats pick up this infection by ingesting small animals (mice, birds, etc). For this reason, we recommend keeping your cat indoors to minimize hunting of small prey. Infected cats shed the parasite in the feces. It takes one or more days for the parasite to develop in the cat’s feces to an infective form.
How would a pregnant woman become infected with toxoplasma? Interestingly, most people acquire toxoplasma by eating undercooked meat or contaminated produce. A pregnant woman can also become infected by inadvertently ingesting contaminated cat feces or inhaling litter dust while cleaning the litter box.
Here are some tips quoted directly from the Center of Disease Control on preventing toxoplasmosis (http://www.cdc.gov/pregnancy/infections-toxo.html):
- Have someone who is healthy and not pregnant change the cat’s litter box daily. If this is not possible, wear gloves and clean the litter box every day, because the parasite found in cat feces needs one or more days after being passed to become infectious. Wash hands well with soap and water afterwards.
- Wash hands with soap and water after any exposure to soil, sand, raw meat, or unwashed vegetables.
- Cook all meat thoroughly; that is, to an internal temperature of 160° F and until it is no longer pink in the center or until the juices become colorless. Do not taste meat before it is fully cooked.
- Freeze meat for several days before cooking to greatly reduce the chance of infection.
- Wash all cutting boards and knives thoroughly with hot soapy water after each use.
- Wash and/or peel all fruits and vegetables before eating them.
- Wear gloves when gardening or handling sand from a sandbox. Wash hands well afterward.
- Avoid drinking untreated water, particularly when traveling in less developed countries.
Do you have questions? Feel free to give us a call at 573-875-3647. If you have an idea or a question you’d like answered on a blog, leave a comment here or on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/MyZooAnimalHospital)
- Our previous blog post on toxoplasma: http://www.myzooanimalhospital.com/tag/toxoplasma
- The CDC’s website on Toxoplasma: http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/toxoplasmosis/
- Food Preparation Safety: http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/prevention.html
- Preventing Infection while pregnant: http://www.cdc.gov/pregnancy/infections.html
Remember, if you are expecting, it’s even more important for your pets to be healthy and up to date on vaccinations. Schedule an appointment today to get your pet checked out and up to date. Call us at 573-875-3647.