Cats, Toxoplasmosis and Pregnancy

Saturday, 26th January 2019 at 3am - 12am Tuesday, 30th April

Location: Australia

This event is in the past.

You’ve probably heard someone saying that their doctor doesn’t allow them near cats because they are pregnant. But why do you see some pregnant women cuddling with their cats? Many women are uncertain whether they should stay around cats when expectant and those that own cats are considering to give them away. Well, cats can be dangerous to a pregnant mother or literally anyone with a weak immune system but it doesn’t mean one has to abandon them entirely. The danger is that the woman will be affected by a disease called toxoplasmosis which is a common infection in not only cats but many mammals and birds.

What is toxoplasmosis?

This is an infection caused by toxoplasma which is a microscopic organism that can be fatal to human beings. In other mammals and birds, this organism doesn’t develop but in cats, it reaches its reproductive state which is still quite immature but nevertheless threatening. Many cats get exposed to toxoplasma multiple times before the infection can get its boots on. However, prevention of the cat’s exposure is possible which could be a measure that cat parents should take seriously.

However, some pregnant women who aren’t involved with cats may be exposed to toxoplasma as well.

How? For instance, you have a small garden that you’ve planted some produce so you can get organic products, right? Well, stray cats can make it their litter spot and if you do not wash the produce you obtain from the garden thoroughly, there will be a huge risk of exposure.

How is toxoplasmosis spread?

The spread of this parasite might seem mild but it goes a long way. If the cat eats any raw meat that is infected with the parasite, it will expel it in the feces. Cats are vulnerable due to their tendency to eat rodents, birds and other animals when raw.

Kittens are most likely to expel the parasite than a mature cat. When the cat expels the parasite in water or soil, your produce in the garden might come into contact and carry the parasite with it. If you eat the produce raw while inadequately washed, you’ll get infected. Also, you could clean the litter box without washing the hands properly and they’ll get to your hands and later in your mouth.

How does toxoplasmosis affect pregnant women and the unborn baby?

It depends. If they get exposed during the early stages of pregnancy, there is a possibility of a miscarriage or stillbirth happening.

If in the late stages of pregnancy, your baby will be born with the infection and that will affect their immune system from childbirth.

If the baby survives but carries the infection, the microorganism will affect his eyes and brain whilst in the womb. When they are born, the organism might have developed enough to show symptoms or develop during later stages. It leads to brain damage hence mental disability and affect the eyes to cause blindness.

Can toxoplasmosis be treated or prevented?

Yes, the moment your doctor realizes it, they’ll treat it and monitor your progress closely.

As for prevention, the woman can protect the fetus by producing antibodies that’ll combat the parasite. However, that’s an if the immune system is truly strong so no one should take chances with an unborn baby. Does this mean that a pregnant woman should get rid of their cat? No. Getting super careful during pregnancy should be the mindset and this also includes being cautionary with your cat. Here are ways you can ensure that the baby and you stay away from toxoplasmosis.

-Do not handle litter boxes during this time.

-Ensure that your cat eats cat food only and not raw meat.

-Choose to stay with your cat indoors only.

-If you have to handle the litterboxes, use gloves and thoroughly cleanse your hands after.

-Do not cultivate your garden without gloves.

-Any meat you bring home, do not take it undercooked.

-Cleanse tour fruits and vegetables thoroughly before consumption.

-Wash utensils and all surfaces you put your food on thoroughly to get rid of any parasites.

-Drink clean and treated water only.

How do I know that I’ve contracted toxoplasmosis?

Because the parasite affects the human body really fast, you could get a sore throat, fever, inflammation, tiredness and aching muscles. Many women assume some symptoms by saying that it could be as a result of hormonal reactions. This is dangerous and if any of the symptoms surface, it is important to visit the doctor and raise your concerns.

How do I know my cat has toxoplasmosis?

Most of the mature cats can battle toxoplasmosis with their strong immune system. However, kittens get affected adversely due to their weak immune system.

There are a wide range of symptoms in cats when the infection is mild as well as when it has matured. The most common symptoms include lethargy, fever and loss of appetite. If your cat constantly sleeps longer than the normal, go get them checked. However, it depends on where the cat has been affected. If you note any personality changes in the cat, take him to the vet to get them checked before the parasite does further damage.

Bottom Line

This article about Cats, Toxoplasmosis and your pregnancy were brought to you by Perth based Australian Vet - ThePetpractice . The Pet Practice is a Veterinary Clinic in Australia.  Pets are amazing companions in our lives. However, they could bring danger every now and then due to the nature of the environment they can subject themselves to. However, we can be careful and take care of them so as to take care of our families. Pet training as well as good pet handling will prove to be vital for anyone's health.

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