Pregnancy and Cats: The 411 on Toxoplasmosis

Why is cat litter potentially dangerous to pregnant women? As an RN, mother, and cat mom, I had to learn more about toxoplasmosis. Specialties Ob/Gyn Knowledge


Pregnancy and Cats: The 411 on Toxoplasmosis

Old Wives Tales, Or Is It More?

I write this as a cat lady and RN wanting to get down to the nitty-gritty of toxoplasmosis and find out what it is. We've all heard the adage that changing cat litter while pregnant is dangerous, but is it? I've heard about this illness, but I had no idea where I heard it from or why it only seems connected with cat litter and pregnancy.

I am a mom of two but didn't have any felines when I was pregnant. My household currently consists of a hardy mixture of humans and pets, with the majority being cats. No one in my family has ever received the toxoplasmosis diagnosis, nor have we acquired illnesses from our cats, except when we rescued a couple of kittens, and all came down with ringworm, but that's a story for another day. I'm not too fond of it when people talk badly about cats, but I also have to think scientifically and report accurate findings. So here goes!


Since I had only heard about toxoplasmosis associated with cats and pregnancy, I found it surprising that this is considered a food-borne illness-causing parasite, which does not only involve cats. According to the CDC, toxoplasmosis is a parasite thought to be the leading cause of food-borne death. The CDC's data shows that toxoplasmosis spreads through undercooked, contaminated meat and shellfish. It can come from drinking unpasteurized goat's milk or even contaminated utensils. Animal-to-human transmission is a genuine concern. This infection is most prevalent in outdoor cats. According to, toxoplasmosis is rarely tested, even in cats. In healthy cats and humans, the illness only lasts a few weeks and is usually minor, and some people experience no symptoms.

Signs & Symptoms

This parasite can and does make people sick, most notably, the immunocompromised. listed the common symptoms as fatigue, headaches, body aches, fever, and swollen lymph nodes, although most people will have no symptoms.


The concern with pregnancy is that pregnancy itself puts strain on the body. There may be no cause for concern, but the baby could be affected in some cases. Miscarriage, preterm birth, and stillbirth can occur in some cases of a toxoplasmosis infection. Prevention is the safest option to avoid complications from a parasite before it even begins. Housecats generally do not carry the parasite because they would have cleared it if they were strictly inside cats. If a cat is partially outside, the best bet is to have someone else clean the litter. If no one else can clean the waste, wearing gloves and washing your hands after removing gloves is necessary.

Infected Before Conceiving?

What should you do if you become infected with toxoplasmosis and want to conceive? The March of Dimes recommends that conception be deferred for six months to prevent any ill effects of infection. Of course, not everyone heeds this advice, but if you have been sick and diagnosed with toxoplasmosis, your body will need time to recover before growing new life. Deferring is, of course, only applicable if you are even aware of the toxoplasmosis infection.

My Final Thoughts

From what I now understand about toxoplasmosis, I prefer avoiding it. I am a proponent of thorough handwashing after toileting myself or a litterbox. It's just good hygiene. If I were to become pregnant with all of my housecats at this point in life, I wouldn't do much to change how I clean litter because I follow good hygiene practices. If I were to acquire new cats or if I had outside cats, then yes, I would a hundred percent have someone else handle that job, with no hesitation. I advise both patients and friends the same: to use good judgment and always wash your hands!


Parasites - Toxoplasmosis (Toxoplasma infection): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Toxoplasmosis: American Academy of Family Physicians

Toxoplasmosis: March of Dimes

My name is Kari Horner, RN, BSN. I've been a nurse since 2004, and have mostly worked within the public school system. I also have written three fictional novels, and love the written word.

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