“My mother in law told me I must give away my cat because I am pregnant. The cat will cause damage to the baby!” a friend told me last weekends. This is not the first time I heard from my friends that they are going to get rid of their cats because of pregnancy. More and more people around my age are getting married and planning to have babies. The problem is：they believed in some unscientific myths about cat have toxoplasmosis, so they think they have to get rid of the cat.
The most commonly asked question from pregnant women is cat will transmit toxoplasmosis, it will cause problems for a fetus. A large proportion of pregnant women and their family members do not have enough knowledge of Toxoplasma.
What is Toxoplasmosis?
Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by the Toxoplasma gondii parasite and it is very common around the world. According to this investigation, about 16 to 40 of adults in the United States and Britain have been infected. In Latin America, 50 – 80% of adults have been infected, and in France is up to 90% have been infected. Most adults show no symptoms when they are infected with Toxoplasma gondii or the symptoms are very mild. Some people might have mild symptoms such as low fever, runny nose, headache etc. Due to our body produces immunity, the symptoms will disappear and generally heal itself.
However, if pregnant women are infected by toxoplasmosis and the disease is transmitted to the fetus, the consequences will be serious. It can cause abortion and stillbirth. Nearly half of the babies who are affected will have a deformity, deafness, blindness, intracerebral calcification or a cognitive impairment etc. A Toxoplasma infection occurs by eating undercooked meat, accidental ingestion of undercooked, contaminated meat after handling it and not washing hands thoroughly and Mother-to-child transmission. Contact with cat feces that contain the parasite is one of the reasons people become infected.
Once a healthy cat has eaten a mouse or bird infected with Toxoplasma gondii, the cat will become infected and carry Toxoplasma gondii. Wild and domestic cats are the only definitive hosts for Toxoplasma gondii. The Toxoplasma oocysts(egg) in cat feces need minimum 24 hours to become infective for human and most cats shed toxoplasma oocysts (egg)only once in their lifetime. Don’t be panic yet. The disease sounds very scary and it does cause a lot of problems for the fetus. But don‘t think you can get infected by a cat so easily!
Let me tell you how hard you can become infected through a cat. Firstly, you need to have an infected cat. The cat food is not good enough. You must feed them raw meats as much as you can. (make sure they are infected!). Then you need to start “Contacting” with the feces which means you must eat it because toxoplasma cannot be absorbed through intact skin. You cannot eat the fresh one, you must eat it after 24 hours! It is not 100 % you will get infected because most of the infected cat can only produce toxoplasma egg once in a lifetime. Are you “Lucky” enough?
How to prevent Toxoplasma?
There are many other ways you could get infected, don’t just blame your cat! Here are some methods you can follow to prevent toxoplasma. Firstly, you need to go to the hospital do a body check and bring your cat to the vet. Make sure both your cat and you are not infected with Toxoplasma gondii. Secondly, don’t eat raw meat or feed your cat raw meat. Wash your hands with soap after touching raw meat is essential. Wash all cutting boards and utensils that have contact with meat and wash all uncooked vegetables before you eat them.
Moreover, use gloves when you are gardening or working in the soil for other reasons. If you do not wear gloves, wash your hands afterward. It is best to let the cat stay indoors. Because oocysts only become infective after one to five days, exposure to the disease is unlikely if you clean the cat’s litter box daily. Most importantly, tell your husband to clean the cat litter.
The companionship of pets will keep the pregnant women in a positive mood. According to allergist Thomas Platts-Mills’s study, children who grew up accompanied by pets are less likely to become allergic. So please don’t give away your cats based on myths.