At my first prenatal appointment with my first child, I was ushered into many rooms meeting many different nurses who lectured me on the many dos and don’ts of pregnancy. My favorite moment was when I was asked if I had a cat. I replied I had two indoor ones. The nurse went on to rail against the dangers of cats and toxoplasmosis. When she finished, she asked, “So, you’re going to get rid of your cats, right?” Needless to say, I did not return to the office, but I did use that conversation to get out of cat box scooping duties for a very pleasant nine months.
Now toxoplasmosis is nothing to sneeze at when a pregnant woman gets it. The disease is usually transmitted by eating raw or undercooked and contaminated meat, drinking contaminated water, eating unwashed contaminated vegetables or coming in contact with contaminated cat fecal matter. And when transferred from pregnant mother to fetus, it can cause miscarriage, stillbirth or severe problems after birth (although the child could also be fine).
Fast-forward to my second pregnancy in which my husband now travels. He was gone last night for a two-day trip, and I figured I’d just let him scoop when he came back today. Which would have worked brilliantly if one of my cats hadn’t pooped on the bed (yes, as I was sleeping in it). Turns out, his lack of bowel control had started in his cat box where some super foul-smelling excrement was simply not going to wait until tomorrow (nor was the pile on the bed). So I wrapped the scooper in a paper towel, covered my nose and mouth with my arm and scooped, which turns out to be a less official version of what a pregnant woman should do when scooping cat poop. Here’s the (ahem) scoop on how pregnant woman should do the deed:
1. If you have indoor cats, relax, as the chance of getting toxoplasmosis from an indoor cat is low. Cats get the disease by eating raw, contaminated meat or drinking infected water, and indoor cats usually don’t have access to this kind of food and drink. But to be on the safe side, scoop at least once a day. The once-a-day rule exists because in order for someone to catch the disease from a cat, the cat would have to have a recent infection, shed the cyst AND have the cyst-filled poo sitting around for more than 24 hours.
2. When you do scoop, wear a mask and gloves. This would prevent any of the aforementioned cyst/poop particles from contaminating your eyes, nose or mouth, which is how the disease is passed cat to human.
3. After you scoop, wash your hands (duh!). Note that the washing your hands rule applies to more than just scooping the cat box when it comes to avoiding toxoplasmosis. Also wash your hands after touching raw meat (especially pork, lamb or venison), and also after outdoor gardening or open sandbox play, as those are two places where outdoor cats who eat rodents actually poop. You also want to thoroughly wash all vegetables to be on the safe side.
Just don’t tell my husband that there are ways for pregnant women to scoop indoor cat poop … I plan to have him resume cat box scooping duty when he returns this evening, just to be on the safe side.
Photo via: The Laughing Stork