When you’re pregnant, you have to be very careful to avoid a serious condition called toxoplasmosis. This disease is caused by parasites found in raw and undercooked meat, unwashed fruits and vegetables, water, dust, soil, cat litter boxes, and anywhere outdoors where cat feces can be found. These are ordinary everday things that can become quite dangerous for you and your unborn baby.
If you’re a cat lover, it’s especially important to be cautious. Any cats that go outside will carry toxoplasmosis. They get the parasites by eating small animals or raw meat that’s been infected. These parasites are then passed on through the cat’s feces. They don’t make the cat sick, so you won’t be able to tell the cat is infected.
To keep you and your baby safe, here are 10 tips for avoiding toxoplasmosis:
- Tip #1 – Wash your hands thoroughly. Use soap and warm water whenever you touch raw meat, unwashed vegetables, cat litter, soil or sand.
- Tip #2 – Take extra precautions with meat. Separate raw meat from other foods – in your grocery cart, in your refrigerator, and when you’re preparing meals. Cook meat thoroughly. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the meat. It should be at least 160° F (71° C).
- Tip #3 – Wash cookware that touches meat thoroughly. Use soap and hot water on cutting boards and knives after each use.
- Tip #4 – Wash and peel all fruits and vegetables. Just to be safe, don’t consume them with the skin on.
- Tip #5 – Avoid drinking untreated water. This is particularly crucial when traveling in less-developed countries.
- Tip #6 – Don’t get a new cat when you’re pregnant. If you already have an indoor cat, make sure he stays indoors and uses the litter box. Be especially cautious when you bring an outdoor cat inside and always avoid stray cats.
- Tip #7 – Have someone else clean out the cat’s litter box. If this isn’t possible and you need to do it, always wear disposable gloves and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water afterwards.
- Tip #8 – Change the litter box daily. The parasites that cause toxoplasmosis don’t become infectious until 1-5 days after they are shed in the feces. You can get rid of them before they become a danger.
- Tip #9 – Wear gloves while working in the backyard. Cats may excrete feces in your garden, in your outdoor sandbox, or many other places. Cover sandboxes to prevent cats from using them as litter boxes. Always wash your hands with soap and warm water upon returning inside.
- Tip #10 – Feed your cat commercial dry or canned food. Remember, raw meat is a huge source of the parasites that cause toxoplasmosis.
If you have more questions about toxoplasmosis, please call your doctor to discuss them. Nothing is more important than the safety of you and your unborn baby.