This, along with the rather bizarre “don’t you know that cats steal a baby’s breath?” was said to me by someone who will remain nameless shortly after I announced my pregnancy. I am still unsure if the question was asked in seriousness or jest but it reminded me how common it is for people to have concerns about whether it is acceptable to have cats around when you’re pregnant. While there are always exceptions, under normal circumstances there is no reason why anybody should feel they have to give up their pet cat upon becoming pregnant and this article will address one of the most common concerns people have: does having a cat mean I will catch Toxoplasmosis?
A lot of people have heard of Toxoplasmosis which is a very real, potentially very harmful, parasitic disease. It is not, however, something which can only occur when you own a cat. The fact is that while Toxoplasmosis infection in a pregnant woman can cause harm to a developing baby, having a pet cat does not mean that you will encounter the disease, and there are many precautions that pregnant women can, and should, take to avoid it. By pregnant women I don’t just mean cat owners.
A common source of Toxoplasmosis is food such as raw or undercooked meat and unwashed fruit or vegetables. Always use good hygiene when preparing food and when pregnant you should not consume raw meat. When gardening you should always wear gloves and wash your hands after touching soil because the parasite which causes Toxoplasmosis can survive in the soil. If you do own a cat, ask someone else to change the litter where possible, otherwise use gloves and always wash your hands after contact with litter. These steps are sensible precautions in order to minimise risk and are simply good hygiene, which every parent to be should practice in any case.
I’m fortunate to be blessed with two beautiful and affectionate adopted cats who I know will enhance and enrich my daughter’s life for many years as they have ours, as well as helping her to learn about and respect animals, which is incredibly important for a child’s developing social skills. They are a part of our growing family and cats make wonderful companions for children. One of my cats is particularly affectionate and sits with his head on my belly. He never steps on my belly as he did before, instead preferring to nestle alongside it. I am convinced that he knew from four weeks because of this change in attitude. My husband jokes that our baby will come out purring and, do you know, I wouldn’t be at all surprised!
Please don’t feel that you need to give up your cat in order to start a family. Simple good hygiene is all it takes to minimise any risk and allow you to relax and enjoy your pregnancy.