Toxoplasmosis can be a serious health threat to humans and their feline companions. If you are planning on becoming a parent and you also have a cat, you definitely want to check out the aspects that we’ve highlighted in this article.
Most people are aware of the fact that this disease can be dangerous for pregnant women, and many times, they will try to rid themselves of their feline friends because of this reason. But there are many ways of preventing the disease nowadays, and there are various tests that can be done to find out whether your cat could pose a threat to your pregnancy. Let’s look at several things about toxoplasmosis.
What Is Toxoplasmosis?
Toxoplasmosis is a parasitosis, which means that it is a disease caused by a parasite by the name of Toxoplasma gondii. Since it is microscopic, this pathogen is even more dangerous. Some studies suggest that over 60 million people in the United States alone are carriers of the parasite, so it is quite widespread. Many individuals will go for years before they show any symptoms, and that usually happens if their immune system is weak. The fecal matter of infected animals is the way the disease is spread.
How Does The Cat Get The Parasite?
If you have an outdoor cat or just one that likes to spend time outside every now and then, the likelihood of your fluffy friend coming in contact with the Toxoplasma gondii parasite is very high. A variety of species are known to be transmitters of the disease – whether they are little rodents or birds.
Your cat can also become infected if he or she comes in contact with the feces of another infected cat. What’s worse, the parasite is capable of surviving in the outdoors for several months, and it can contaminate the soil, water, and also fruits and veggies. It can even be found on grass, and many cats are known to like munching on some in the morning.
How Do Humans Get Infected?
There are quite a bit of ways in which people can become infected with this parasite. The first is by consuming water or food that has been in contact with an infected cat’s feces. However, what’s important to note here is that not just cats are carriers.
While it is true that many of them can become infected and infect us, too, the reality is that pigs and lambs can also be carriers of Toxoplasma, so eating undercooked meat, wild game, or just meat that has come in contact with the intestinal content of the animals can be another contamination method.
Pregnant women almost always transmit Toxoplasma to their unborn children.
What Are The Symptoms In Humans?
Future mothers can become infected and not suspect a single thing as in most situations, the disease causes no clinical signs. Toxoplasma does, however, have a series of adverse effects on the unborn fetus. Even though an infant could become infected before being born and could show zero symptoms after, most of those that have contracted the disease while in their mothers’ wombs will develop medical conditions later on.
There are cases of children being born with their brain or eyesight damaged.
If you have a weak immune system, you are likely to experience several symptoms of the disease. These could range from vomiting and nausea to confusion, fever, and poor coordination. On the other hand, people that are equipped with good immune systems will only experience several mild symptoms such as pains and muscle aches that only last for a couple of weeks. Oftentimes these go unnoticed and the person isn’t aware that she’s become a Toxoplasma gondii carrier.
Do You Have To Say Goodbye To Your Cat?
Would you want to give up your cat after taking care of her for so long? Probably not. Fortunately, you don’t have to anymore. There are many ways you can make sure that both your cat and yourself don’t get exposed to the parasite. Ideally, you should keep your cat indoors for the remainder of your pregnancy as that would mean that her chances of being exposed to the parasite are considerably lower. By doing this, you will also be able to rest assured that she doesn’t get into any kind of trouble, either. Plus, inside the house, your cat would have anything she needs, whether that means a cat enclosure or special diet food.
If you are pregnant, it is highly recommended that you ask someone else to change your cat’s litter so as to avoid any type of contact with the animal’s feces. If this is not possible, wear gloves when you do it and wash your hands thoroughly after you’ve changed it.
To prevent toxoplasmosis in cats, either feed your cat a diet composed of dry kibble and commercial wet food or if you feed her meat, make sure that you cook it thoroughly. Avoid getting a stray kitten if you are pregnant, no matter how tempting that might be for a cat lover.
There’s no way you can know for sure that the perimeter around your house is Toxoplasma-free, so we would also advise avoiding gardening in this period. At least wear gloves if you decide against this piece of advice.
Can The Disease Be Treated?
Medication is readily available for people who’ve become infected with Toxoplasma, whether they are pregnant or not. Nevertheless, both the mother and the baby have to be kept under observation, particularly once the baby is born.
Healthy people who only show mild symptoms could just as well not require any treatment, especially if they aren’t planning on becoming parents. The parasite is known to affect the infected person’s eyesight over time, though, so people with eye disease are recommended to undergo treatment to prevent their condition from eventually becoming more severe.
You can actually find out whether you are exposed to toxoplasmosis by taking your cat to the vet. Even though it is a practice that is possible across the world, routine screening for humans is not usually performed in low-risk populations. For example, in Canada, just some parts of Quebec and Nunavik have screening programs, but they are only the result of high endemic seroprevalence. Routine screening isn’t common in countries with a low incidence, and that includes the United Kingdom and the United States.
The tests are efficient and can tell you whether your cat or yourself have the Toxoplasma parasite in your bodies.
The Bottom Line
Being informed about toxoplasmosis is by far the best thing you can do if you want to become a parent. As we have shown here, there are many ways you can become infected even if you are not a cat parent. Getting rid of your feline companion has become unacceptable since nowadays, you can find out whether your pet actually has toxoplasmosis or not with minimal effort and you can do your best at preventing the infection while you are pregnant.
Outdoor cats and those that are fed raw meat are the most exposed segment to Toxoplasma gondii of the entire cat population. Once the animal is exposed to the pathogen, it excretes oocysts for just two weeks, which means that adult cats have a significantly lower chance of spreading the disease compared to kittens.
While your cat’s litter box has to be cleaned every day, it is highly recommended that you do not handle the task if you are pregnant.