Home > Case Studies > Keeping Cats and the Risk of Toxoplasmosis When Pregnant: A case Study

Keeping Cats and the Risk of Toxoplasmosis When Pregnant: A case Study

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 24 Mar 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Toxoplasmosis Cats Pregnant Women

When Anna learnt that she was pregnant, she was delighted with the news and hurried to share it with her friends and family. She was horrified, however, when many of them started warning her about her beloved Burmese cat, Bella.

“They all told me I had to get rid of Bella,” she recounts. “It was horrible. My mother kept telling me about this disease that cats can carry called Toxoplasmosis – it’s supposed to be really dangerous to babies in the womb and can cause growth defects and abnormalities and stuff like that. But I just couldn’t give Bella away! She was part of the family too!”

Researching Toxoplasmosis

Distraught, Anna and her husband, Jim, decided to find out more about Toxoplasmosis, to see if there were any precautions they could take which would enable to keep their beloved cat. They learnt that the disease is caused by a protozoan parasite called Toxoplasma gondii which infects cats when they swallow the cysts in contaminated soil. Cats can also become infected if they hunt: the birds and small mammals that they hunt are also carriers of the parasite. The parasite then develops in the wall of the cat’s intestine where it releases its own cysts, which then contaminate the cats faeces.

“Actually, the cats themselves usually don’t show any symptoms of disease,” explains Anna, “although some do exhibit general poor health and eye problems. The real worry is when the parasite is transmitted to people. Even then, it’s not really a problem most of the time – in fact, we found out that in the US, up to 20% of the population carry the parasite and they don’t show any signs of infection.”

The only 2 times the parasite was really dangerous, Anna and Jim discovered, was when it infected people with weakened immune systems, such as young children or those with certain medical conditions, or when it infected pregnant women.

“It’s actually pretty serious if a foetus gets infected in the womb, especially in the first trimester,” says Anna. “The baby can get brain damage or other serious developmental defects, mental retardation, seizures, miscarriage or premature births. Even if they are born normal, they can develop illness later in life.”

Taking Precautions

However, Anna and Jim were also relieved to find out that this did not mean pregnant women could not own cats. As long they took some precautions, there would be no need for Bella to be rehomed. These precautions included having Jim or another person change the litter tray, or if Anna did have to clean the litter tray, then she should wear gloves and wash her hands thoroughly afterwards. Daily changing of the litter tray would reduce the risk even more and Anna was also to avoid handling any stray cats.

“It was such a relief because I was heartbroken at the thought of losing Bella, so it was great to find a way to work around it,” recalls Anna. And in fact, the couple were interested to find a piece of research done at an European mutli-centre which showed that most pregnant women become infected from eating undercooked meat (30-63%) or touching contaminated soil (17%), rather than from contact with cats – in fact, the studies concluded that contact with cats and cat faeces was not a significant risk factor for infection. Nevertheless, they decided it was best to take all precautions.

Eight months later, Anna and Jim were delighted to welcome their new member of the family – a healthy, normal baby – and introduce him to Bella.

“Our family and friends were a bit disapproving at first when we decided to keep Bella but they came round when we explained all the research we’d done and what precautions we were planning to take. And they could see the proof that keeping a cat while I was pregnant didn’t prevent me from having a healthy, normal baby!” smiles Anna.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • Sprinkles
    Re: Dog Laws in the UK
    I live beside someone who has 3 dogs. This person doesn't work but disappears for over 10 hours or all night and doesn't come back until…
    14 June 2019
  • sherrie
    Re: The Dangers of Cat Fights
    our calico cat was in a fight last monday morning and we had to take her to the vet. We had to put her down because she had a deep…
    12 June 2019
  • Kiwi
    Re: The Dangers of Cat Fights
    We recently moved into an apartment that has lots of outdoor cats I don't know if these are ferel cats or pets my cat Kiki likes to go…
    26 May 2019
  • Rani
    Re: Dog Laws in the UK
    Hi I live with my in laws and they have recently bought a dog, hes a big alsatian. I have 4 kids 6,4,2 and 8 months. It's hot and they want to…
    23 May 2019
  • Jillybags
    Re: Keeping Mammals in an Aviary
    So it's ok to have 2 bunnies and ( say ) 4 budgies, lovebirds or cockatiels in the same outdoor aviary ? They'll have plenty of…
    21 May 2019
  • Soph
    Re: The Dangers of Cat Fights
    Just herd me cat (maui) and another tabby fighting opened the door and both cats scattered I do have a female tabby (tiger-lily) who…
    11 May 2019
  • Nightfall
    Re: Dog Laws in the UK
    Hi, I know it’s illegal to not have a ID tag but does the tag have to go onto a collar, can it go onto the dog harness we have instead?
    6 May 2019
  • Rae
    Re: Introducing a Kitten to Other Cats
    I had luck once by putting a little bit of butter on the new kittens back. Then the older cat naturally wanted to lick it…
    28 April 2019
  • Fin
    Re: The Dangers of Cat Fights
    With the antibiotic jab at the vets, Quin recovered really quickly. I think it's inbuilt resistance, especially with moggies…
    25 April 2019
  • Fin
    Re: The Dangers of Cat Fights
    I have been seriously mauled - on both hands - by a cat, that I was putting into a carrying box... My comment to the…
    25 April 2019