Can I Touch Cat Litter?

Jennifer Shryock's picture

QUESTION

Dear Pet Expert,
I'm 3½ months along with my first child. My husband and I just got a new kitten, and I've had seven different relatives tell me that I can't touch cat litter. Is there any truth to this anymore, or was this a problem years ago and the new litter has different effects, or is it just the urine?

Is there anything else I should know about kittens and pregnancy? Is there any possibility of baby developing allergies because we have a cat?

ANSWER

Hello and congratulations! The concern is about Toxoplasmosis from contact with your cat's stool. Here is a helpful article on this topic.

You can decrease this risk by keeping your cat indoors and following proper sanitary protocol. Use proper hand washing techniques when cleaning litter or any interaction. If you feel more comfortable, have someone else do the litter but even that is not necessary. There is very little risk with every day duties of cat ownership.

I have always had cats and I enjoyed allowing my husband to handle that chore during my pregnancies. There were many times that I did clean the boxes and wore gloves and washed my hands following.

All too often people surrender their feline friends out of fear but that is not necessary! So, enjoy your cat and I recommend you visit Cat Behavior Associates, LLC as it has wonderful information that you might also find helpful!

I have had cats all through my pregnancies and have never experienced any problems. Use proper hand washing techniques when cleaning litter or any interaction. If you feel more comfortable, have someone else do the litter but even that is not necessary. There is very little risk with every day duties of cat ownership.

There is a great deal of information out from the humane society and actually studies indicate cat and dog exposure early on in infancy help prevent allergies.

So, enjoy your cats and follow regular precautions.

-- Jen

Comments

Hey I'm also 3 months pregnant and was told to not handle any cat litter at all. Apparently, there could be something in the cat's feces that could affect the fetus, but not you. I have just been having someone else scoop it, just to be on the safe side.

Submitted by whtroze on

I worked in a veterinary clinic for 11 years and this is a topic I encountered many times. I also have a degree in microbiology. There is the nasty rumor that cats are bad around pregnant women, and that is so sad as it just is not true! Hope this info I will provide can help anyone who is worried. Also, you don't have to take my word for it as some of this information is also available free on the CDC (Center for Disease Control) website.

Toxoplasmosis is always the concern with cats and cat litter. Here's some facts. Yes, cats are carriers of toxoplasmosis..meaning they can carry the parasite and not show symptoms of infection. The parasite is passed through feces...so yup, a cat carrier may pass it in their poop they deposit in the litterbox. HOWEVER, toxoplasmosis does NOT become infectious until 1-5 days after the poop is deposited into the litterbox. Therefore, if you scoop the litterbox EVERY day, there is no risk of infection. This does not rule out other parasites tho that pets can carry such as roundworms...so if you have a pet, it should be checked for parasites annually! (more often if its an indoor/outdoor pet). The best bet is if your pregnant and need to clean the litterbox...gloves aren't a bad idea and then wash your hands immediately as well. Basically personal hygiene. A co-worker of mine was pregnant and worked with a cat we knew was carrying toxoplasmosis (the cat was being treated for it)...and all was good because protocols were followed to be safe at all times. Another thing to remember is that cats aren't the only thing to worry about. About 70% of women who get infected with toxoplasmosis were infected while gardening! Raccoons, mice, and other wildlife are also carriers of toxoplasmosis and their bathroom is the soil you may be gardening in! Obviously we are not cleaning the soil outside every day..so yes this soil can have infectious stages of toxoplasmosis. So gloves while gardening or working with soil is important. Lastly, toxoplasmosis is a parasite in which its only way to get it is "fecal/oral" classification. This means the parasite (or its eggs..called cysts) has to be in poop of something and then the poop has to have contact with the mouth of the new host it will infect. For all the parasites of the world..."fecal/oral" classifications are the easiest to control...it just takes good personal hygiene and some common sense!!!

Another note on cat litter boxes...there is a concern with the litter itself. Many litters out there have fairly high dust contents that may have chemicals added. Probably not a bad idea to cover your mouth and nose while cleaning the box so you don't inhale unnecessary dust or chemicals. Maybe during pregnancy even switch to a natural litter like cedar-shred or organic (not sprayed with pesticides) corn or wheat litter. Again, make sure to wash your hands too.

Lastly, there is one big concern with cats after the baby is born. Some cats like to cuddle next to something warm and has a rhythm like a heartbeat and breathing, yet peaceful. It is important that cats can not get into the crib with the baby while it is sleeping. Adults can handle if a cat lays on them. The cat doesn't understand that the baby can not handle this added weight while sleeping and may unintentionally hurt the baby...so best to keep the cat out of the sleeping area of the baby.

Sorry this is so long, but I hope it helps. Our babies are the most important concern for us, but we can also continue to keep and love our furry family members to welcome our new bundle of joy:-)

Submitted by jackson26 on

First of all congratulations!!! I think, it's not safe, because of the risk of toxoplasmosis. There are many ways that a pregnant woman could contact with toxoplasmosis. Generally, it's a mild infection.