Posted by: secondchancehumanesociety | March 30, 2010

New Baby & Keep Your Cat

OJ says its OK to keep your cat and your baby

From time to time families who are expecting babies call the Second Chance Humane Society Shelter to tell us they have to give up their family cat.  They are fearful of the rumors that cats pose a threat to an unborn child, carrying a disease called toxoplasmosis that may lead to birth defects or miscarriages.

Typically these fears can be extinguished by a full understanding of the issue and the cat is able to remain the home where it belongs.  

According to the Humane Society of the United States, although transmission of toxoplasmosis to a pregnant mother can lead to the concerns stated above, the risks are of contracting it are far greater from consuming uncooked meat than from your cat that you dearly love.  The risks of infection from your cat are extremely low and with a few precautionary steps can easily be avoided.

Cats can become infected by the disease from eating rodents, birds, soil, or other contaminated meat. Once contaminated they dispel cysts in their feces for about two weeks – after which time they typically acquire an immunity, (and can not be re-infected) and are no longer transmitters of the disease.   Furthermore, the cysts in their feces take 1-5 days to become infectious, thus, cleaning the litter box daily further reduces risk of contagion.

Several additional factors keep the chance of transmission low.  The risk to cats is limited to outdoor cats who hunt and eat rodents, or cats who are fed raw meat by their owners. An outdoor hunting cat is often exposed to the disease at a young age and is, therefore, less likely to transmit the infection as he ages.  Cats and people can both be tested and, when positive for carrying the antibodies of this disease, the risk in contracting the disease is eliminated for both parties.

In summary, it is difficult for cats to transmit toxoplasmosis directly to their caregivers and a pregnant woman is generally unlikely to contract the disease from her pet cat. So, cats can safely remain in the home as a loved member of the family while awaiting the new arrival.  Getting rid of one’s feline companion is not a necessary precaution.

 Cat ownership has many benefits that are immeasurable in terms of companionship and love. Cats should continue to be sources of joy to their parents during pregnancy and following the birth of a child. Abandoning the family cat during pregnancy only leads to unneeded stress of coping with the loss of your feline family member.

 The following tips will minimize the risk of contracting toxoplasmosis, as found in the Humane Society of the United States published guide, “Toxoplasmosis: A Practical Guide for the Clinician,” written by Dr. Jeffrey D. Kravetz of the Yale University School of Medicine.:

  • Don’t handle or eat uncooked or undercooked meat.
  • Clean cutting boards, counters, plates, and utensils that have been in contact with meat.
  • Pregnant women should have someone else clean the litter box daily.
  • If you must clean the litter box, wear rubber gloves and follow with a thorough hand washing. Scoop feces as soon as you can, and at least daily, since it takes one to five days for feces to become infectious.
  • Feed cats only commercially prepared cat food or well cooked meat.

Call the Second Chance Helpline at 626-2273 to report a lost pet, learn about adopting a homeless pet, or about the SCHS Spay/Neuter Financial Assistance, Volunteer & Foster Care, or other Programs.  Visit our shelter pets online:  Direct Pet Column questions to:  kelly@secondchancehumanesociety.orgPhoto by Real Life Photographs.



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