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Pregnancy, Babies, Cats and Cat Litter
There are many common myths and horror stories associated
with the cat, cat litter and babies. Some have some basis in fact
while others are pure fiction. Many people believe that when you
get pregnant or have a small infant you should not have a
cat. This is not true; you can keep your pet cat when you
have a baby.
One common tale is that a cat got into a baby's room and
crawled into the baby's bed, supposedly for the milk from
the bottle or some other attraction, or it was jealous of
baby. According to the tale, the cat lies on the baby and
smothers the baby to death. Could this really happen? Maybe
if the cat was very large and fat and the baby in its first
month, I suppose it might, but if it ever did really happen,
there is no viable record of it. If you have any pet loose
in the home it is best to always keep baby in a covered bed
or bassinet. This will protect the baby from your pet if you
are worried about this remote possibility.
Another urban legend is that when you aren't looking the cat
gets your baby's bottle and licks the nipple without your
knowledge and the baby then sucks on the bottle, causing
sickness in the baby. Could this happen? Yes, if a bottle is
left unattended in a home with a pet this could potentially
happen. Is it likely? Sure, cats like milk. The best way to
prevent this is never let your baby have a bottle
unsupervised. Or if you do give the baby a bottle
unsupervised give it juice or water which reduces the risk.
Any bottle left for a long time can get bacteria in it that
may result in sickness in the baby with or without cat
A real danger to you and your baby, especially if you are
pregnant, is the threat of
Toxoplasmosis parasite which can
be found in raw or undercooked meat, unwashed fruits and
vegetables, dirty cat litter boxes and outdoor soil where
cat feces can be found. A woman should not handle cat litter
while pregnant because of this threat. The mother may only
suffer the most common symptoms of swollen glands, fever,
headache, muscle pain, or a stiff neck. But, according to
the US Food and Drug Administration, children born with
Toxoplasma gondii can suffer from hearing loss, mental
retardation, and blindness, with some children developing
brain or eye problems years after birth. The CDC estimates
that 400-4000 fetuses are infected with the Toxoplasma
gondii parasite each year and as many as 80 infants die from
Another bacterium that might be contracted from improper
handling of your cat's litter is Escherichia
called E. coli). It can infect humans thru contact with
feline fecal material, although the primary means of
infection is thru ingestion or raw or undercooked meats. E.
coli is a bacterium commonly found in the intestinal tract
of humans and animals. Almost all strains of the bacteria
are harmless; however a few strains can produce powerful
toxins and cause severe illness, especially in children
under 5 years of age. Symptoms usually include diarrhea and
abdominal cramps. In children under 5, 2%-7% of E. coli
cases can cause kidney failure. Fortunately, E. coli is easy
to prevent with good hygiene.
Again it is best if you are pregnant or have a small infant
that you should not handle the cat litter. If you do, use
disposable gloves while cleaning the cat litter and wash
your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap afterward.
Never leave the cat litter box where your infant or toddler
can get into it. Consider a covered self-cleaning litter
Don't let your baby or toddler indiscriminately handle the
cat either. You should wash your hands after petting your
cat and wash your baby's hands after playing with kitty.
Take your cat to the veterinarian and get it checked for the
Toxoplasmosis parasite and if it has it get it cured to
avoid infecting your baby.
The USFDA makes the following recommendations for avoiding
1) If possible, have someone else change the litter box. If
you have to clean it, wear disposable gloves and wash your
hands thoroughly with soap and warm water afterwards.
2) Change the litter box daily. The parasite doesn't become
infectious until one to five days after the feces are
deposited in the litter box.
3) Wear gloves when gardening in a garden or handling sand
from a sandbox because cats may have excreted feces in them.
Be sure to wash your hands with soap and warm water
4) Cover outdoor sandboxes to prevent cats from using them
as litter boxes.
5) Feed your cat commercial dry or canned food. Never feed
your cat raw meat because it can be a source of the
Toxoplasmosis gondii parasite.
6) Keep indoor cats indoors. Be especially cautious if you
bring outdoor cats indoors.
7) Avoid stray cats, especially kittens.
8) Don't get a new cat while you're pregnant.
Overall, if your cat is healthy and the cat litter is placed
where your infant can not get to it and you clean your cat
litter properly, having a cat is perfectly safe and there is
no reason to give up your beloved pet while you are pregnant
or have an infant in the home. Be sure to keep yourself and
your pet healthy and you and your family can expect to have
your pet around for a long time.
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