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Thanks  to Mike Hall of Braid Vets Edinburgh
A question we are often asked is “do cats pose a health risk to pregnant women?”
The question usually comes from an expectant Mum who has been scared by ill-informed friends or family, urging her that she must “get rid of the cat!”
This is a question we are happy to answer, and a worry we are quick to allay. The concern arises from an infection called Toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasma is a tiny parasite which is found in most animals –including cats-, and birds. It is also often present in garden soil and on fresh vegetables.
Sooner or later one person in two will come in contact with Toxoplasma, and may go on to develop an infection, but probably won’t realise it as the symptoms are similar to mild ‘Flu. Toxoplasmosis is not usually dangerous to a healthy adult or child.
However, should a woman contract the infection for the first time whilst pregnant, there is a slight risk to the unborn child. Toxoplasmosis in pregnancy and congenital toxoplasmosis are rare, with about three babies in every 100,000 born with the condition in the UK.
The infection can be caught in many ways. These include eating raw or undercooked meat, unwashed fruit or vegetables, unpasteurised cheese, or unpasteurised goats’ milk. It can also be contracted from handling dirty cat litter, or from soil contaminated with cat faeces.
So what advice can we give to expectant, cat-owning Mums? It comes down to common sense and following the rules of good basic hygiene. Mums-to-be who like gardening should always wear protective gloves. This will prevent picking up the bug from the soil.
Avoid emptying the cat’s litter tray – here’s a good job to delegate to your partner! – or, if needs must, wear rubber gloves. Cats’ litter trays should be cleaned at least once every day – this is our standard advice to cat owners, whether they be pregnant or not. Cats are fastidiously clean creatures and do not like having to go into a tray that has already been used by themselves or, worse still, by another cat! Dispose of soiled litter hygienically and disinfect the tray – wearing gloves.
Keeping the tray clean keeps all of the poop in one place and reduces risk to an absolute minimum.
Children’s outdoor sandpits should be covered over – to prevent cats from using them as a litter tray, but also to stop foxes from doing the same.
If your cat or kitten becomes unwell, take special care with hygiene, and consult your vet.
On average half of the population will pick up Toxoplasmosis in their lifetime. It is most likely to be contracted from a food or food-related source rather than from a cat.
By following basic hygiene precautions all risks are kept to a minimum, giving the expectant Mum some reassurance and one less thing to worry about. Don’t banish your cat when you learn of your pregnancy – you can still handle him or her as usual – with all the feel-good benefits that that can bring
No one lives in a germ-free environment – that in itself is not healthy – so good cleanliness and basic hygiene will eliminate the risk of this and many other chance infections.

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Catseye Cattery, 19 Boggs Holdings, Pencaitland, East Lothian, EH34 5BE