We’ve all heard that pregnant women shouldn’t clean out the litter box. But is that really true, or is it just an old wives’ tale?
According to PetMD, cats are the only mammals that can pass Toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection, through their stool. This is the parasite behind the warning because it can cause birth defects when pregnant women are exposed.
How concerned should you be about catching Toxoplasmosis from your cat? Here are 4 things you should know.
#1 – You’re more likely to be infected by your food
While it’s not impossible to be exposed to toxoplasmosis through your cat’s litter box, most people are infected by other means. Unwashed fruits and vegetables are a common culprit. Be wary of any prepackaged salads. Raw and undercooked meat may contain not just toxoplasmosis but a variety of other pathogens. Wash your food and hands and make sure meat is fully cooked.
#2 – Indoor cats rarely get toxoplasmosis…
…Unless they eat raw meat. Most cats pick up toxoplasmosis outside the house and deposit it into the litter box via their feces. Keep your cat indoors and avoid feeding them a raw diet while you’re pregnant. You should also wear gloves when gardening and cover up sandboxes when they aren’t in use to avoid picking up the infection while you’re outside.
#3 – Daily scooping prevents transmission
It takes a minimum of 24-48 hours for the oocytes in the feces to become infective, so scooping the litter box every day will help avoid catching toxoplasmosis.
#4 – Wear gloves
If you are pregnant and cleaning out the cat’s litter box is unavoidable, you should wear gloves to help reduce the chance of infection. Just to be safe and wash your hands when you’re done.
All in all, the odds of catching toxoplasmosis from cleaning out your cat’s litter box are very small, and there are many preventative measures you can take to protect yourself and your baby. Being pregnant is still a great excuse to make your partner take over litter box duty for a while, but you don’t need to give up your cat if you’re the only one who can scoop the poop.
(As always, cat-owning expectant moms should consult with their doctors about all health and safety issues.)