Pregnancy presents a few challenges when you have a cat. But with a little understanding and planning, you'll overcome all of them while still enjoying your pet. After all, pregnant women, babies, and felines have coexisted peacefully for centuries. If you're wondering, it's a myth that cats like to suffocate babies. The reality is that cats love to snuggle up to warm bodies and they like the fragrance of milk on a baby's breath. Here's more information that'll help ease any other anxieties.
Cat Litter and Toxoplasmosis Concerns
Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by a parasite that can infect your cat. A cat can get it if it eats prey, raw, or undercooked meat with the parasite, or comes into contact with contaminated soil. Pregnant women may assume they need to give their cats away because toxoplasmosis can cause birth defects in children.
It's important to understand the disease. In fact, you may have already been exposed to toxoplasmosis. That's because the parasite can be found in raw and undercooked meats or on unwashed produce. However, you could already have a natural immunity to the parasite. The immune systems of generally healthy humans keep the parasites dormant to give you lifelong immunity. As a result, a pregnant woman will not pass it on to her unborn child. Your doctor can test to see if you're in this group. If so, you have no worries about getting it during pregnancy.
There are a few additional measures to help further safeguard you from catching this disease, recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Keep your cat indoors.
- Don't handle litter box maintenance while you are pregnant.
- Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat.
- Wash all surfaces and utensils that touch raw meat.
- Wear gloves if you garden or work in soil (the parasite lives in the dirt).
If You Must Change the Litter
If you have no choice but to handle the litter, take the following precautions. Clean the litter box after each use. The parasite only becomes infectious one to five days after being shed in the cat's feces. If you scoop the litter box soon after your cat uses it, there will be less risk. But always wear disposable gloves and thoroughly wash your hands immediately afterward.
Prepare Your Cat to Accept Your New Baby
From your cat's point of view, a baby is a loud, threatening, and attention-stealing invader. With some planning, babies and cats can be buddies. Soften the blow to your cat by gradually introducing the change.
- Get your cat used to baby smells long before bringing your infant home. Wear baby lotions and powders and let your cat sniff you while offering praise and treats. The process will help your pet develop positive associations with the new scents.
- Record a baby crying and play it for your cat. Start on a low volume and work up to louder volume and longer duration, using positive attention and rewards.
- Invite a friend or family member to bring their baby over for visits. Let the baby sit on your lap, let your cat sniff the child while offering praise to your pet at the same time.
- Let your cat investigate the new nursery. It'll help your cat feel like it's part of the household.
Protect the Baby's Mattress
Even before your baby arrives, make the bassinet or crib uninviting for your cat by putting items on the mattress that deter your pet. Place a few containers filled with coins that make noise, add a small rug protector nubby side up, or cover the bed with netting.
Avoid Too Many Changes
Keep your cat's routine the same as much as possible. A predictable routine reduces a cat's stress and prevents a host of problems. Ask others to help make sure that your cat gets fed, brushed, and entertained in the usual manner. However, avoid going overboard by giving your cat extra, compensating attention prior to the baby's arrival. It'll be impossible to keep up your high level of attention once your baby arrives home. Instead, enlist family and friends to help your cat feel like a valued member of the family. Everyone in your household can help keep both your cat and baby safe, happy, and living together on peaceful terms.
Parasites - Toxoplasmosis (Toxoplasma Infection). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Toxoplasmosis: An Important Message for Cat Owners. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Ellis, SL., Rodan, I., Carney, HC., Heath, S., Rochlitz, I., Shearburn, LD., Sundahl, E., Westropp, JL. AAFP and ISFM Feline Environmental Needs Guidelines. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 15,3,219-30, 2013, doi:10.1177/1098612X13477537