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Can I Change Cat Litter During Pregnancy?

by Ben Doyle | Reading Time: 5 minutes

If you have recently become pregnant (congratulations!) or want to become pregnant, chances are, you’ve heard you shouldn’t go near your cats’ litter box. Let alone actually change their litter.

Someone might have told you how dangerous it is for both you and your baby.

So in this article, we’ll:

  • Explain the risks of changing cat litter during pregnancy,
  • Why these risks aren’t as great as some doctors or healthcare professionals would have you believe, and
  • How to protect yourself from these risks

Important Note:

In the interest of honesty and transparency, we have to say, we’re not doctors. We’re pet carers.

Take this article as general advice, not medical advice. If you have concerns, please, go see your doctor.

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Is it Safe to Change Cat Litter When Pregnant?

It is safe to change your cats’ litter box while you’re pregnant, as long as you take precautions. That said, it’s better to have someone else change the litter for you.

Let’s face it, you’ve got the best excuse in the world not to do it.

The Risks of Changing Cat Litter During Pregnancy

There is a risk (a very small risk) of getting a condition called Toxoplasmosis if you come into contact with infected cat faeces.

That said, you have a much higher chance of getting Toxoplasmosis in other ways.

Still, that doesn’t stop some doctors from going as far as telling expectant mothers to get rid of any cats in the house.

Now we’re not saying you shouldn’t take this risk seriously, you should. Especially if your cat is a hunter or eats a raw diet. But over the years, we’ve dealt with lots of mums-to-be who lived with cats and changed cat litter with no issues.

You cannot get Toxoplasmosis by owning and stroking a cat. So don’t go giving up your cat quite yet.

What is Toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic infection. It’s caused by a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii.  

If a healthy adult gets Toxoplasmosis, chances are they won’t show any symptoms. As such, they won’t even know they have it. If they do get symptoms, they’re often flu-like, so an infected person will assume they have the flu.

Also, once you’ve had Toxoplasmosis, you develop immunity. So, if you’re a pregnant woman with immunity, that immunity also protects your unborn child.

Why is Toxoplasmosis Dangerous During Pregnancy?

If a pregnant woman gets infected with Toxoplasmosis, the infection can pass through the placenta to the foetus. 

Even then, according to the NHS, the risk of passing the infection to your baby is small.

In most cases, the mother won’t show any signs of infection but the risks to her baby include;

  • Miscarriage
  • Stillbirth
  • Birth defects like eye or brain damage, although this is very rare.

All that said, even if you do get infected during pregnancy, it doesn’t mean your baby will definitely get it. Oftentimes, the infection doesn’t pass to the baby.

How Common is Toxoplasmosis During Pregnancy? 

The chances of becoming infected with Toxoplasmosis while you’re pregnant are slim.

According to Tommys.org, a charity for babies, only;

  • 190 cases were recorded in a five-year period between 2008 – 2012, and 
  • 1 in 10,000 babies is born with Toxoplasmosis in the UK

While the risk of becoming infected with Toxoplasmosis is real, the chances are small. The chances of getting it from your cat are even smaller.

Other (More Likely) Ways of Catching Toxoplasmosis

Although you can contract toxoplasmosis via your cats’ faeces, it’s not the most common.

There’s a far higher chance of getting it by;

  • Eating raw or undercooked meats, like rare steak for example
  • Eating cured meats, like salami, Parma ham etc (although it’s fine to eat if you cook it)
  • Eating unwashed vegetables that have grown in cat poo contaminated soil
  • Drinking unpasteurised goats’ milk, or eating other foods made from it

How to Protect Yourself and Your Unborn Baby While Cleaning the Litter Box

There are some simple precautions you can take to make handling your cats’ litter tray as safe as possible.

pregnant lady washing hands in soapy water

Have Your Vet Check Your Cat For Toxoplasma

Your vet can test your cat for the presence of Toxoplasma.

If your feline is free of the infection, excellent. If not, don’t panic.

Either way, there are still things you can do.

Keep Your Cat Indoors

If your cat is a hunter, it might be best to keep them indoors until you’ve had your baby. 

Hunting and eating live prey is how cats get infected with Toxoplasma parasites. Stop your cat hunting and you’ll reduce the chances of infection in a huge way.

If your cat has always spent their time outdoors, this could be a huge change for them. And speaking from experience, it’s not always practical.

Don’t Feed Your Cat Raw Food

For the same reasons pregnant women aren’t allowed to eat raw or undercooked meat, neither should your cat.

If your cat is used to a raw food diet, try switching them to a food like KatKin. It has all the benefits of raw food, but it’s steamed.

Have Someone Else Clean the Litter Box

If possible, get someone else to clean your cats’ litter box. Your partner, kids, anyone.

Having someone else clean your cats’ litter box will mean you don’t have to worry about Toxoplasmosis. Even if your cat is infected.

Besides, when else will you have the excuse to get someone else to do the dirty work?!

Scoop The Litter Box At Least Once a Day

If you don’t have anyone to empty your cats’ litter tray for you, scoop it at least once a day.

Toxoplasma takes a minimum of 48 hours to become infectious. By scooping the litter tray once a day you’ll prevent infection. 

On top of that, cats infected with Toxoplasmosis shed the organism in their faeces for only a few days. After a few days, the risk will be gone.

Wear Gloves When Cleaning the Litter Tray and Wash Your Hands Afterwards

Wearing gloves will prevent your bare hands from coming into contact with soiled litter.

Then, once you’re done, wash your hands. It might seem like an unnecessary step after wearing gloves, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Conclusion

If you’re pregnant there is a risk of getting a Toxoplasmosis infection when cleaning out your cats’ litter tray. 

That said, the risks are small. You’re far more likely to get infected by eating undercooked meat or unwashed vegetables.

If you can, get someone else to clean the litter tray. If not, scoop at least once a day, wear disposable gloves and wash your hands afterwards.

There’s no need to get rid of kitty, despite what your doctor might tell you.

Photo of author

Ben Doyle

Ben Doyle co-owns Pet Checkers with his wife, Vicki. He spends his days looking after all kinds of animals, from dogs to eagles. When he's not taking care of animals, he's writing about them.

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