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Potential Dangers to Pregnant Women who have Cats as Pets

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • An unborn child contacting toxoplasmosis or cat feces disease can lead to symptoms which may be severe enough to cause a loss of life while still in the womb, or lead to that child being born with a disability.
  • Toxoplasmosis or cat feces disease is particularly dangerous when contacted during the first trimester of a pregnancy.
  • Avoid allowing cats onto your bed as this will increase the risk of contacting bacteria and parasitic infections, as well as increase the risk of an allergic reaction to the cat’s fur, resulting in symptoms associated with allergies or various other respiratory disorders.

 

Taking care of a cat or another pet while pregnant may help with a mother’s mood, providing her with relaxation, stress relief and assistance in overcoming any anxieties she may be experiencing. However, pregnant women need to be especially careful when caring for a cat during a pregnancy as doing so can have dangerous consequences, the likes of which may never have previously crossed your mind.

The dangers lurking within your cute cat

Pregnant women may be unaware of the bacteria or parasites that are present within a cat’s intestines called toxoplasmosis, or as it’s more commonly known, cat feces disease. Toxoplasmosis can enter the pregnant woman’s body after coming into contact with cat feces and then not properly washing the hands. The bacteria can transfer onto the unborn child through the mother’s body.

The most dangerous time to contact this infection is during the first 3 months of a pregnancy, and in severe cases, this condition can lead to the unborn child losing his/her life while still in the womb. Alternatively, the effects of the bacteria may manifest as a disability which may only become apparent around 6-7 months after the child’s birth, with potential disorders ranging from blindness, to learning and neurological disabilities. That being said, not everybody who contacts the infection will suffer severe symptoms. Fortunately, some infants contacting the bacteria do not experience any irregularities whatsoever. Nevertheless, no mother would like to put her child at the risk of developing a health disorder. Therefore, prevention is key.

Prevention for those who have cats at home

  • Pregnant women should ensure that their food is properly cleaned and cooked. When eating fruits, be sure to first wash, and then carefully peel off the skin. Last but not least, always wash your hands before you eat anything.
  • Avoid any contact with soil and sand, especially with regard to your cat’s litter tray. If such contact is absolutely necessary, ensure that you wear gloves and thoroughly wash your hands afterwards.
  • Feed cooked cat food to your cat because they can contact bacteria from unhygienic and unclean food, especially raw cat food.
  • Do not allow cats onto your bed because not only will this increase the risk of contacting bacteria and parasitic infections, it will also increase the risk of an allergic reaction to the cat’s fur, resulting in symptoms associated with allergy or numerous other respiratory disorders.
  • Avoid all contact with stray cats.
  • Be sure to take your cats for vaccination as the suggestions of your vet.

If mothers-to-be are healthy and have a strong immune system, the symptoms of this condition may be similar to those of a common cold that goes away by itself. Aside from bacteria contained in cat feces, pregnant women should also be careful not to allow cats to jump or sleep on their body as this could also negatively affect the unborn child.


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Flt Lt Pattraporn Pootong, M.D. Summary: Obstetrics And Gynaecology Family Medicine