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1986 graduate of the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada. Owner and founder of the BloorMill Veterinary Hospital in Etobicoke (border of Toronto and Mississauga). www.BloorMillVet.ca

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Internet Myth #15: A pregnant woman should get rid of their cat.

WRONG!!!! I've actually had a human doctor give this advice to a client of mine. This kind of advice drives me crazy. It shows a complete lack of understanding of the disease called Toxoplasmosis. Unfortunately I have found over the years that many human doctors have not had adequate training in Zoonotic diseases (those which are transmissible from animals to humans).

Toxoplasmosis is caused by a parasite which can be dangerous to a developing fetus in the human being THE MOST COMMON WAY THAT A HUMAN IS INFECTED WITH TOXOPLASMOSIS IS EATING RARE OR RAW MEAT. Although it is true that a cat could potentially transmit Toxo to a human a whole series of specific events would have to occur that are quite rare.

The cat gets a bad rap because it is the only species whereby the Toxoplasmosis organism uses as an intermediate host. Usually what happens is the cat eats infected RAW meat and the organism undergoes development within the cat and for a brief period (about 2 weeks) the organism can be shed in the feces of the cat. Typically on a farm, cats use the grain storage facilities to defecate and then cattle, sheep, goats etc become infected by eating that grain. That is how the organism gets into meat that humans eat.

In order for Toxoplasmosis to infect a human and do damage to a developing fetus from a cat the following events would have to happen:

1) The woman would have to be in her first trimester

2) The cat would have to be fed RAW infected meat during this time

3) The cat would then shed Toxo for approximately 2 weeks OF ITS ENTIRE LIFE AND THEN NEVER SHEDS AGAIN.

4) The woman would have to eat or ingest that infected cat feces (possibly by cleaning the cat litter).
So, you can see that you might have better odds of winning the lottery than having your developing baby getting Toxo from a cat.

What should a woman do if pregnant?

1) DON'T EAT RARE OR RAW MEATS

2) Don't feed your cat RARE OR RAW MEATS

3) Let someone else clean out the kitty litter during your first trimester.

4) Avoid gardening or wear gloves when gardening in case cats have been defecating in the garden.

5) Relax and enjoy your pregnancy and for heaven's sake DON'T GET RID OF YOUR CAT!!

Oh, and by the way, if you eat rare or raw meats did you know that you may already be infected by Toxoplasmosis and don't even know it? It has been estimated that if you are 30 years old you have about a 30% chance of already having Toxo. If you are 50 years old, you have about a 50% chance of having come into contact with Toxo. And, if a woman has Toxo already there is no concern to the baby. The woman has to get infected during her first trimester.

Should I have my cat tested for Toxoplasmosis? Not necessarily. IF your cat is positive for Toxo that doesn't mean they are a danger. In fact, it means the opposite. It means they have been infected at an earlier age and no longer are a danger (they can no longer shed the toxo). What might make more sense is for the woman to be tested. If a woman is positive for Toxo it means she has come into contact with it earlier and is no longer at risk of developing it during the first trimester. If a woman is negative she is at risk and should make sure she does not eat rare or raw meats, should not give her cat rare or raw meats and avoid the cat litter box or gardening during her first trimester.

I hope this has been helpful information.

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