World Cat Day: no need to expel Kitty
August 8th is world cat day, a chance to celebrate the bond between humans and cats. Despite the fact that cats make excellent companions, our feline friends are often expelled from their homes if a woman in the household becomes pregnant. This unfortunate parting often results from an unnecessary fear of toxoplasmosis.
“Expelling a cat from the home because of a pregnancy is inappropriate,” says Kate Atema, IFAW’s Programme Director for Companion Animals. ”Concerns about Toxoplasmosis can easily be managed, and the sorrow of a forced parting can be prevented.”
Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. This parasite is present worldwide – we live with it every day. Most people get infected once in their lifetime and don’t even notice it, and are then immune against further infection.
The most common way for humans to become infected with the parasite has nothing to do with cats at all. Rather, people are infected by eating undercooked meat (pork, beef, horse, chicken, etc.). People may also become infected if they don’t wash their hands after cleaning a cat’s litter box, working with soil, gardening or handling raw meat.
A cat sheds the parasite in its faeces only once in its entire lifetime, for about 2 weeks. So the chances of becoming infected from your pet cat are quite low. When pregnant women practice a few sensible hygiene habits, or leave the task of cleaning the litterbox to another member of the household, they can maintain a happy, healthy relationship with the household cat.
If you have been friendly with cats for several years before becoming pregnant, chances are that you already have immunity against toxoplasmosis. In any case, here are some tips to stay on the safe side:
- If you can avoid cleaning the litter box, do so; if not, wear gloves and wash your hands with soap afterwards.
- Clean the litter box daily. The parasite passed in the cat’s faeces doesn’t become infectious for at least 24 hours; daily removal of feces avoids contact with the active parasite.
- Avoid letting your cat outside where it eats rodents. Feed your cat a well-balanced, commercial cat food.
- Keep your kitty healthy – make sure vaccination and deworming are up to date, have him or her spayed or neutered, make sure the diet is healthy, and give your cat lots of love.
- Cook all meat well before eating it.
- After handling raw meat, wash your hands and utensils with soap and water.
- Wash raw vegetables with soap & water, or cook them, before eating.
- Wash your hands with soap and water after gardening or working in the soil.
“If we all stick to these simple guidelines, a mother-to-be can enjoy the companionship of a purring pet throughout her pregnancy, and the family pet can remain a valuable and respected member of the growing family,” continues Atema.
About IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare)
Founded in 1969, IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare) saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats.