Cats and Pregnancy: What are the risks?

Pregnancy in a woman is a joyous event which comes with several constraints, starting with her diet!
Her doctor will talk to her about salmonellosis, listeria, toxoplasmosis ... and may ask her a very surprising question: "Do you have a cat?".

But what is the relationship between a cat and a woman's pregnancy?

The cat may be carrying a parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, which is contracted while hunting animals (mice, birds) and lodging itself in the cat's intestines. The parasite is then transmitted via cat excrements, which can lead to contamination of the pregnant woman through the cat litter, this is toxoplasmosis.

Chances of a house cat carrying the parasite are minor, provided that he/she does not eat raw meat or poorly cleaned food, and there are no mice in the home!

Toxoplasmosis: What is it?

Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease that can be contracted throughout a lifetime, but it turns out to be dangerous during pregnancy, so it must be monitored. Normally, the symptoms go almost unnoticed: a short-lived influenza-like illness. The person is then immune for life. However, in the case of pregnancy, the risks are greater for a non-immunized-woman’s fetus. Toxoplasmosis may slow down the development or cause a malformation of the fetus.

Pregnant women who are not immune to toxoplasmosis must adhere to a specific diet because the risk of contamination is much greater through eating inappropriate foods than through handling cat litter. Therefore, they should avoid raw or undercooked meat that could be carriers of the parasite and wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before consuming them, especially vegetables from the soil (salad, carrots, etc.) that may be contaminated by cat faeces.

A simple blood test makes it possible to know if the expectant mother is immune and if not, then it will be necessary to carry out this control every month to ensure a proper follow-up.

A cat and a pregnant woman: cohabitation is possible!

If the non-immune pregnant woman has a cat, simple precautions can limit the risk of infection.

  • In general, it is necessary to avoid contact with everything that is tainted by cat excrements. If she has to handle cat litter, she has to wear disposable gloves.
  • It must not be forgotten that a cat covers his/her stool in the litter. And even if he/she lives outside, claws are in contact with earth or sand. It is, therefore, necessary to avoid contact with the cat, and especially avoid scratches.
  • It is recommended to wash ones hands thoroughly after each cuddling session with the cat.
  • Sleeping with a cat is also risky. It is therefore advisable to prohibit this habit during pregnancy.

It would be unnecessary to separate a pregnant woman from her cat. Nevertheless, she just needs to be vigilant and keep a bit distance from her fur bal.