Let’s talk about pregnancy and cats. No, not kittens and mom cats, but pregnant women and their cats. There is so much crazy information out there; we’ll take this opportunity to try to straighten a few things out. Let’s make a short list of things I hear at my hospital and go from there. The names have been excluded from the statements to protect the innocent.
1. The cat will attack my baby and smother it.
This statement is up there with “The aliens might take my baby.” Cats don’t have some ingrained viciousness and need to rid the world of babies. Trying to understand how this notion came to be popular, maybe we could say that cats like warm things to snuggle with (babies are warm), and they like soft places to sleep (cribs are comfy). So it is totally possible that you could find your kitty curled up with the baby, but it’s unlikely that he’s got any malicious intent. If you are concerned about the cat being too close to the baby, keep the door shut. However, if you make the nursery just a normal part of everyday life, it will lose its super-secret power over the cat. I usually suggest letting the cat visit the baby’s area way before the baby is even born. As we all know, cats can’t resist something new. That whole curiosity thing, right? So allowing the cat to experience the baby’s room will make it not so special anymore.
2. If I’m anywhere around the cat litter I’ll get toxoplasmosis.
Toxoplasmosis is a true risk to pregnant women. It is a parasite carried by some cats that can cause significant birth defects. However, if infected, a cat only sheds the parasite in his stool for several DAYS over his entire lifespan. Moreover, the stool needs to be sitting around for a few days to allow the organism to become infective to people. So if the box is scooped every day the risk is significantly reduced. If your cat is indoors only and you don’t have a colony of mice living in your house, and you don’t feed your cat a raw diet, the risk goes down even more. Now don’t get me wrong, if you’re pregnant, I wouldn’t go around playing with cat poo willy-nilly. But if you take appropriate precautions, there is absolutely no reason to get rid of your cat. Scoop the box daily, wash hands immediately after cleaning. Consider wearing a mask if you can’t bring yourself to scoop the box daily. Best option: have someone else do the cat box. Use that pregnancy to your advantage! But don’t get rid of the cat. Here is something important to remember: I’m more worried about pregnant women becoming infected from gardening. ALWAYS wear gloves when playing in the dirt if you’re pregnant.
3. I don’t want my baby to have allergies.
I love this one. You can find articles to support just about any theory you may have, but in general, being around pets as a baby is not going to lead to having allergies or asthma later in life. There are so many factors involved, with genetics being a lot of it. I’d rather a baby be around a pet than second hand smoke, but that’s a different topic. As my staff would tell you, I say all the time, we all need to eat more dirt. What I mean by that is that if we continue to try to sterilize the world around us, the more our immune systems are going to react when exposed to something. Immune systems get stronger by having to deal with things on a daily basis. Bottom line – don’t just arbitrarily get rid of the cat!
I hope this has at least made you think a little bit. Nothing breaks my heart more than to hear of a family getting rid of the family pet because a baby is on the way. Even when there are significant challenges, most of the time we can help you work them out. Never be afraid to talk to both your physician and your veterinarian to figure out what individually is best for your family.
Learn more about cats and toxoplasmosis here:
- NCBI – Exposure to dogs and cats in the first year of life and risk of allergic sensitization at 6 to 7 years of age
- NCBI – Direct and indirect exposure to pets – risk of sensitization and asthma at 4 years in a birth cohort
- NCBI – Does pet ownership in infancy lead to asthma or allergy at school age?