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Cats and pregnancy: here’s what you should know about toxoplasmosis

Let’s dispel a myth: when women are pregnant they shouldn’t get rid of their cats, a few precautions are sufficient to prevent toxoplasmosis.

Are you pregnant? So, get rid of your cat. Expecting women with a cat probably have heard these words at least once in their life. The boogeyman is toxoplasmosis, an asymptomatic infectious disease that if contracted and transmitted to fetus during pregnancy can cause abortion or severe malformation.

 

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Actually, it is really unlikely to catch toxoplasmosis from a domestic cat. Transmission can occur when cats eat raw meat (e.g. birds or small rodents) infected with a parasite, the protozoan Toxoplasma gondii. Even in this case, cats that carry the infection shed oocysts only during two weeks in their entire life, and merely through feces. The cysts ripen and become potentially pathogenic if they are exposed to the air for at least 24 hours and come into contact with expecting women’s mouth or mucosas.

 

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In other words, in order for mothers-to-be to contract toxoplasmosis from household cats, not only should the animal carry this disease, but also shed cysts in said period; moreover, expecting women should be exposed to the cat’s fecal matter for at least 24 hours and touch their mouth or eyes  after coming into contact with it. Therefore, to prevent transmission, only a few good hygienic measures are necessary: change the kitty litter with single-use gloves and mask at least once a day and then do proper hand-washing. Or, by taking advantage of pregnancy, women can entrust their partners to clean the litter during these forty weeks.

 

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To banish all doubts, concerned mothers-to-be can subject their cats to specific blood tests that may exclude infection risk and control their nutrition habits in order to avoid following transmission of the parasite. With wild or outdoor cats, they have to follow further precautions to prevent toxoplasmosis infection: refrain from gardening without gloves, wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly, and avoid raw or partially-cooked meat consumption. However, they can serenely pet their felines and enjoy hearing them purr.

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